House Republicans released another round of Obamacare-related emails late Thursday that shows concern among administration officials days before the flawed launch of a federal website charged with linking many American to health coverage.
According to the emails, officials at the agency charged with building HealthCare.gov told the project manager on Sept. 27 — four days before launch — that tests were “not good” and showed inefficient and defective code.
One message said they “have not been successful in moving beyond 500 concurrent users filling applications without income verification.”
“Adding capacity to address bottlenecks like these likely be ineffective,” the email continued.
Deputy chief CMS information technology officer Henry Chao, sent an urgent reply to one of the emails that said he did not want a rerun of past U.S. government tech failures.
He replied, in caps: ““I DO NOT WANT A REPEAT OF WHAT HAPPENED NEAR THE END OF DECEMBER 2005 WHERE MEDICARE.GOV HAD A MELTDOWN (THIS IS TO GET YOUR ATTENTION IF I DIDN’T HAVE IT ALREADY.)”
The White House’s chief technology officer, Todd Park, also expressed concerns about full testing of the systems in the email chain.
Mr. Obama recently said his administration fumbled the implementation of the law, but he would not be “stupid” enough to tout a website that he thought would not work.
Republicans are holding up these emails and other intra-agency messages as proof they knew about the federal website’s struggles shortly before the portal’s launch, and despite repeated assurances to Congress that the Obamacare markets would function on Oct. 1.
“For over six weeks, we have been asking the administration if they did not know or did not disclose the problems that lay ahead,” Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, Michigan Republican, said. “What we are learning is that the administration went out of its way to hide the chaos behind the scenes.”
In response, CMS officials noted that Mr. Chao often erred on the side of caution and that the email chain released by House Republicans presented only a small snapshot of preparations.
“As we have said, even before the launch of the website, this is a complex project and we expected that there would be issues,” the agency said in a written statement late Thursday. “However, we did not anticipate the degree of the problems in the system. It is important to remember that these emails are one piece of a number of ongoing discussions up to the launch of HealthCare.gov on October 1st. As we have also said, each piece of the live system was tested, and security testing was completed prior to the launch with no high findings.”