Sebelius: ‘Ongoing’ Fixes to Website Better Than Shutdown

By Melanie Arter | November 6, 2013 | 1:07 PM EST

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

( – Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) that it’s better to address technical issues with the Obamacare website “on an ongoing basis” rather than shut down the whole system for weeks until it’s all fixed.

“It’s been advised that you don’t gain much from just taking the whole system down for a week, a couple of weeks. It’s better to do this on an ongoing basis,” Sebelius said at a hearing Wednesday on

Baucus asked why she won’t down the site until all the bugs have been worked out to lessen the damage from the growing number of negative stories about the website’s technical issues.

“Many people think that the site should be shut down until it’s totally fixed, and I ask that question: Why just keep limping along? Why not just shut it down and put it together the way it should be put together?” he asked Sebelius.

Baucus warned that these “one-off fixes” could have “unintended consequences down the road” in another part of the system.

“There’s no end-to-end running of the whole system after all the fixes have been made, and people ask why hasn’t that happened,” he said.

Baucus said everyday there’s a story about someone who couldn’t get on the site, received a blank page, or experienced a security problem.

“That’s a bad media campaign,” he said. “It’s negative. It’s hurts you. It doesn’t help you, so why not just have one bad story – you’re shut down – and fix it all then everything’s working, and beginning however long it takes – several weeks, a month, who knows – and then look back on, at that date we’re up and running, and it’s working well?”

“Mr. Chairman, I’m relying on the advice of not only the inside team and contractors but a lot of the outside experts who have come in to take a look at the system, and they did a number of things along the way,” Sebelius said. isn’t “fatally flawed,” she said.

Jeff Zientz, a former budget director at the White House who was tapped by Quality Software Services Inc. (QSSI) to oversee the website’s overhaul, has a “punch list” of items that need to be fixed on the site, Baucus said.

He asked Sebelius how many items were on that list, what items have been taken care of, when she expects all of the improvements to be made, and when she plans to conduct “end-to-end testing” after everything has been addressed.

“Because the site is running, it is end-to-end daily. People are coming into the system and going all the way through the system everyday, and that helps identify some of what we’re seeing,” she said. This “live time end-to-end testing” will help Sebelius to inform the tech team what else needs to be fixed.