Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 7, 2016

Obamacare Website Was ‘in Jeopardy’ in July, Emails Reveal

Upton released internal Obama administration emails Friday showing officials were concerned about's ability to work.  (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Upton released internal Obama administration emails Friday showing officials were concerned about’s functionality. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Friday released a string of administration emails regarding the construction of that provide insight as to why the health care website is so troubled.

In the internal email chains with officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, administration officials express serious concerns regarding having an insufficient number of web developers and insufficient money and time to complete the project.

“Administration officials looked us in the eye and told us everything was ‘on track’ but when we pull back the curtain now, the mess is disturbing,” Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton said in a statement. “What reason do the American people have to believe that the administration is capable of meeting its November 30 goal for fixing or its January 1 promise to deliver health care to Americans across the country?”

The Michigan Republican said the “botched rollout has created a serious question of competence and trust in the administration.”

Those questions might not be helped by the emails turned over to the committee.

The emails from July 8 to July 20 of this year show those working on the website expressing numerous concerns.

Henry Chao, the deputy chief information officer and deputy director of CMS, wrote on July 16 that he wanted to convey “how low the confidence level” is with the website.

“And then pile on top of that the request for more money when we constantly struggle to get a release done, vacillating on delivery by due dates, and worse of all poor [quality assurance] from build of the [virtual machines] all the way up to their software,” Chao wrote.

He wrote that the contractors “take direction from us,” and that he didn’t want to hear excuses about the contractors.

“I just need to feel more confident they are not going to crash the plane at take-off, regardless of price,” he wrote.

In a separate email to more than 40 administration officials and at least one contractor, Chao sent a link to the testimony he and and CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner delivered to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“I’m not sharing this with you because I think it’s entertaining and informative,” Chao wrote on July 20. “I wanted to share this with you so you can see and hear that both Marilyn and I under oath stated we are going to make October 1.”

But throughout the emails, there are a series of issues brought up that made the Oct. 1 deadline look like wishful thinking.

On July 8, Jeffrey Grant, a senior technical adviser for CMS, wrote that he had just finished “an extended set of development planning meetings” with the CMS Office of Information Systems.

“Suffice to say, the upshot is that the [Financial Management] build appears to be way off track and getting worse,” Grant wrote. Grant raised a concern that there were only 10 web developers working on the site for functionality, and only one of those developers was “at a high enough skill level to handle complex issue resolution, which now appears to be required for all aspects of our build.”

He also noted that data collection was “weeks behind schedule,” and that most of the test cases for contractor CGI were failing.

“There has been no independent testing and CGI still cannot support user acceptance testing,” Grant wrote, noting that testing was originally scheduled for early June.

He noted that another program would be “barebones at best” for early August testing.

Grant concluded the email by noting that “while [the Office of Information Systems] has always said we had an independent team for [Financial Management] development, they have never revealed the seriously substandard level of staffing that this team has. We believe that our entire build is in jeopardy.”

Reached for comment on Friday, Grant said, “I really can’t talk to you about this stuff, sorry.”

  • papal

    They knew this summer the rollout would be a mess and rolled it out anyway. It just shows the level on inexperience at the White House.

  • pineagig

    ACA saved lives since its implementation almost 3 yrs ago! ACA is
    working great! The website may not be 100% working, but it is only a
    miniscule part of the ACA Law!

    ACA saved my 84 yr old Mom’s life! 2.5 yrs ago my Mom was diagnosed as
    end-stage kidney disease, meaning her kidneys are functioning 15%! She
    is now on dialysis 3 times per week. Even though she is on Medicare, she
    is insured through Kaiser. I have worked real hard to get her healthy,
    she is now off 6 blood pressure meds (which make me happy, because she
    still ends up in the Meds doughnut hole!)

    How did ACA benefit my Mom? Because her medicare is administered through
    Kaiser, she was not dropped from kaiser because of a pre-existing
    condition (diabetes), as her Patient Advocate, I was able to participate
    with the Medical staff to get her well, and keep her healthy! For
    example, after she was in the hospital for overdosing on potassium ( her
    muscles became weak), she received physical therapy… the insurance
    would only cover it for a month… I got the dr to request in-home
    physical therapy, even though Mom would pay for it,…

    Mom’s healthcare is administered through Kaiser insurance…allowing Mom
    to get full coverage… Medicare only partially pays hospital and
    dialysis…. pre-ACA without the additional insurance paying the bills
    Mom would not have been able to pay the balance of hospital and dialysis bills, bankrupting her!

  • Montesquieu

    Liberals, democrats, socialists, marxists, and communists – they’re all the same.

  • aquinas215

    In this YouTube video, spy-chief Hussein Obama, lies to the face of the American people about keeping their insurance and their doctor:

  • aquinas215

    Although confused about the sources of human intelligence, collectivists claim that society must be subjected to centralized control by small groups of quacks and academics.

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