Obamacare needs 'Amazon-like shopping experience'

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HealthCare.gov 'fixable' by end Nov.: White House
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The problems plaguing the federal Obamacare website were a function of poor management and implementation, said Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, former special advisor on health policy to President Barack Obama.

"The people who were in charge did not ... assemble a good team and assemble the team that has competency in the exact area you need," Emanuel told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Friday. The bioethicist was part of the president's health care reform team for two years until January 2011 and is the brother of former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel .

The goal has to be an "Amazon-like shopping experience," he stressed, as the process moves forward to fix the problems with Healthcare.gov-the federally operated health insurance online store, serving the 36 states that are not operating their own.

(Read more: Was Sebelius warned? HHS officials won't say )

Jeff Zients, a problem-solver who served Obama in the past, has been brought in to oversee the so-called "tech surge."

"[He's] someone I have worked with at OMB. He's a very good manager. He's an excellent people-person," said Emanuel, referring to the Office of Management and Budget. "He's been a consultant in the health-care industry. So I think he has the requisite knowledge."

Zients is scheduled to start in January as head of the National Economics Council. "For two months in the crisis he's a very good choice," said Emanuel, vice provost at the University of Pennsylvania. "I think they have to hire a permanent person who's really the CEO of this and go along for the long-haul over the next couple of, or three, years until everything is up."

Meanwhile, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa has asked Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT), and three other U.S. companies to provide details on their possible involvement in the White House "tech surge."

What went wrong was at the center of the first congressional hearing Thursday into the botched rollout, with contractors on the project blaming the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)-a division of the Department of Health and Human Services. CMS was in charge of pulling together the work of many contractors for the Oct 1. launch.

(Read more: Obamacare contractor promises: We'll fix it soon )

"Assigning this to CMS, which doesn't have experience integrating these complex IT systems, doesn't have experience in e-commerce website development, was not a wise choice. I didn't make that choice," said Emanuel.

A CMS spokeswoman acknowledged the issues raised by the contractors-saying "due to a compressed time frame the system wasn't tested enough" but that's changing now.


-By CNBC's Matthew J. Belvedere . Follow him on Twitter @Matt_SquawkCNBC. Reuters contributed to this story.



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