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Spending on healthcare.gov to break $1 billion mark

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Obamacare,Health Care,Kathleen Sebelius,Healthcare.gov,HHS,Sylvia Mathews Burwell

Federal spending on the Obamacare website healthcare.gov, a source of tremendous frustration for the public and embarrassment for the White House, will soon cross the $1 billion mark as the administration continues to fix glitches and make it an IT gem, according to congressional testimony.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, nominated to replace outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, said in answers to questions from Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., that spending has already reached $834 million and another $200 million has been budgeted for fiscal 2015.

Asked by Alexander, the top Republican on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, to tally the costs of the Obamacare marketplace website where policies are purchased, Burwell said in written answers:

"It is my understanding that as of February 28, 2014, CMS has obligated a total of approximately $834 million on Marketplace-related IT contracts and interagency agreements. These expenditures include the website and the systems that support enrollment through the Marketplace, such as the data services hub as well as other supporting IT infrastructure, including cloud computing, to support Marketplace IT development."

She added: "The president's budget reflects a need for approximately $200 million for all Marketplace-related IT in FY 2015, some of which is funded through user fees. Much of this amount reflects ongoing operational and maintenance costs of healthcare.gov, as well as continued development."

A Senate HELP source said when combined, the spending for the website totals over $1 billion. But the source added, "The only hedge is that the $200 million will likely come from multiple sources, including website user fees and accounts the HHS Secretary has a little more leeway to spend in ways she sees fit if Congress doesn’t specifically appropriate money."

The answers were among many provided by Burwell following her initial May 8 confirmation hearing.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.