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Obama administration knew of key Obamacare delay in August, emails say

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House Republicans released emails Friday that suggest the Obama administration knew as early as August that the small-business exchange tied to Obamacare would not be ready on time.

“Despite this knowledge, the Obama administration waited to finalize the delay until Nov. 27, as Americans across the country were off celebrating Thanksgiving with their loved ones,” the Energy and Commerce Committee said in a news release.

The emails from July 26 to Aug. 13 suggest the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services knew the federal insurance marketplace, or SHOP, that assists companies with fewer than 50 workers would not be available until mid-November at best. But they said at the time it would be ready Oct. 1 and did not announce any type of delay until late September.

One email from the lead vendor, CGI Federal, suggested a timeline that started with webinars Oct. 1 and ended with the SHOP portal going live Nov. 15.

“Can we sign this with blood?” Henry Chao, the project manager at CMS, wrote back.

Last week, the administration announced a one-year delay of the SHOP feature.

“As the paper trail broadens, we see more and more evidence that the administration was fully aware its signature health care law was not ready for prime time,” Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican and chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said. “The documents we are now reviewing tell a much, much different story than what officials testified to Congress.”

Republican critics of President Obama’s health care overhaul are regularly releasing email chains that shed light on conversations between CMS and contractors who worked on HealthCare.gov, the beleaguered federal website that is supposed to connect consumers in 36 states to private health insurance plan options under Obamacare.

The trickle of information is feeding into angst on Capitol Hill about the law, as Democrats try to fix Web portals tied to Obamacare and Republicans bolster their case for scrapping the reforms.

 

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