The Obama administration did not provide "clear leadership" in the botched rollout of healthcare.gov back in 2013, according to a thorough autopsy from a federal watchdog.
The website, used by residents in more than 30 states to sign up for Obamacare, failed to perform properly when it launched. A report released Tuesday from the Health and Human Services' Office of the Inspector General chronicled the factors that led to the breakdown.
A major problem was that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversaw the website, didn't recognize the magnitude of problems as the project deteriorated, according to the inspector general.
Problems included "poor coordination between policy and technical work, resistance to communicating and heeding warnings of 'bad news' and reluctance to alter plans in the face of problems," the report said.
"CMS continued on a failing path to developing healthcare.gov despite signs of trouble, making rushed corrections shortly before the launch that proved insufficient," the inspector general added.
Another contributing factor was that CMS devoted too much time to policy and not enough time to technical decisions, the watchdog said.
Development of the website started in March 2010. An early issue was a poor transition of the federal marketplace from HHS to CMS early on that caused "inefficiencies that resulted in communication breakdowns and needlessly complex implementation."
In addition, there wasn't a clear idea of who was in charge to give direction and "unity of purpose, responsiveness in execution and a comprehensive view of progress," the report added.
Another problem was that in 2013, CMS continued to change the policy and business requirements for the website, which compressed the timeframe for putting it together.
The report did praise CMS' response to the rollout, noting that it established backup systems in the event of further breakdowns. It also worked to simplify systems and processes to enable close monitoring of the website.
The inspector general added that it would have been hard to get the website going on time even without the agency's problems. It noted the technical complexity, fixed deadline and high degree of uncertainty about funding.
CMS said that lessons learned from 2013 and the agency's quick improvements to the site after its launch led to improvements at the agency.
"CMS has put the consumer at the center, making enrollment quicker and smoother for both returning and new customers coming to HealthCare.gov," spokesman Aaron Albright said.