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Another Democrat, New Jersey’s Frank Pallone, dismissed the hearing as a "monkey court."
What motivated the administration to delay the window shopping feature remained an unresolved question. QSSI’s Slavitt testified it came as a "late decision."
Speaking for the administration, Julie Bataille, director of Medicare’s office of communications, told reporters Thursday without elaboration that it was a "business decision." The Medicare agency is responsible for running the health care overhaul.
E-commerce sites, including Medicare.gov, routinely allow anonymous shopping, and customers set up accounts when they check out. Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters said recently that window shopping wouldn’t have let consumers first see if they were eligible for tax credits. The credits amount to a discount off the sticker price of premiums.
Without citing any evidence, some Republicans suggested the administration’s motivation was political. "This browsable website was turned off to hide the costs," said Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., sought to debunk that.
"Are you aware of any political intervention by this White House relating to your work on HealthCare.gov?" he asked Campbell.
"I am not," she responded.
QSSI’s Slavitt said the decision had technical implications. It increased the website’s workload, contributing to the failure of an accounts registration function that his company was in charge of. Requiring the merely curious to create accounts "may have driven higher simultaneous usage of the registration system that wouldn’t have occurred if consumers could window-shop anonymously," he said.
Slavitt added that accounts registration snags are being cleared up. And HHS has since incorporated a rudimentary window shopping feature to HealthCare.gov
Meanwhile, Slavitt and the administration both are saying that another, even more important component designed by QSSI is working well. It’s the website’s virtual back room, known as the federal data hub, which plays a crucial role in verifying applicants’ identity, immigration status and income.
Associated Press writers Jack Gillum in Washington and Terry Tang in Phoenix contributed to this report.
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