White House pushes back on Obamacare reports
November 23rd, 2013
07:19 PM ET
9 years ago

White House pushes back on Obamacare reports

Washington (CNN) - The White House had to defend its rollout of the President's signature health care legislation Saturday after two scathing reports that allege missteps, miscommunication and lack of leadership sank the launch of Obamacare's online exchanges.

The New York Times and the Washington Post each reported on a meeting between contractor CGI Federal and government employees at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in late August.

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CGI won the main contract to build the Obamacare website, and CMS, the branch of the Department of Health and Human Services that was overseeing the launch, was growing worried the site was riddled with flaws and unprepared for day one.

The meetings were candid, but tense, according to the reports. Only five and a half weeks until the October 1 deadline, the majority of the 95 elements needed for the site’s functionality were not ready, by CGI's own evaluation; later, more than a dozen that were categorized as ready failed further testing.

In interviews with administration officials and a review of government and contractor documents, the reports show that CGI argued an October 1 deadline was impossible, given how complex and cutting-edge the government said the site needed to be. What’s more, without a high-level point person leading the operation for the government, CGI said it was difficult to get timely answers and understand the administration’s shifting vision, said the Times.

For the administration, that October 1 deadline was non-negotiable, and despite the warnings, it ordered CGI to push ahead while growing more and more frustrated with the contractor’s sloppy coding and missed deadlines, according to the report.

"If we could fire them, we would," said Michelle Snyder, CMS's chief operating officer, according to the New York Times.

The White House confirmed the meetings, via a statement from CMS on Saturday.

"In the months leading up to October, CMS engaged in hundreds of operationally focused planning conversations on processes, procedures and work to prepare for the beginning of open enrollment on October 1st. The meeting between CMS and contractors on August 22 and 23rd was part of the ongoing discussion," it said.

The statement went on to defend the troubled rollout and try to explain the decisions detailed in the reports, arguing the October 1 deadline was most important and promising further functions down the line.

"This was a complex project with a short timeline, and CMS prioritized essential functionality to be live on October 1st to ensure that consumers would be able to apply for eligibility and select a plan. A variety of operational topics were discussed at the meeting, and decisions were later made about priorities for October 1. Other functionality will come online over time," it said.

CGI Federal declined to comment, saying, “While we understand our silence leaves us exposed to others' conclusions, out of respect for CMS and all of our clients, we strongly believe in honoring our contractual commitments.”

The administration has now pledged that the site would be fully functional for most users by November 30.

Filed under: Obamacare
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Blake

    My issue is kind of with CGI at this moment. They already had a history of failure. The site is going to be fully fixed and completely recoded in two months by outside help and this company couldn't make it work over 6-7+ months to a year? If you don't think you can do the job in the deadlines given, which can't be easily moved without causing insurance premiums to shoot up through the roof, why did you bid on the contract?

    This is the problem with Gov contracting out work. Contractors take advantage, delay and milk money when they can, because there isn't any good oversight at mid level Gov that actually knows what they're doing. Its like the difference between someone who knows nothing about cars and a car guy going to get their car fixed. The first person could be rolled over and pay for loads of extra stuff, delays etc. by a mechanic The car guy may just say "I know what the problem is, just fix it or ill go somewhere else." "Stop trying to sell me on redoing x which I just did 2 weeks ago."

    November 24, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  2. Thomas

    @Rick McDaniel
    This simply is very revealing, in that the only real thing that Obama has done, since taking office, is a huge failure.


    So what your saying is Osama bin Laden was not eligible under the Affordable Healthcare act ?

    November 24, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  3. Randy

    I have sign up three time – once online and twice via phone. Each time when I check back via phone they say my information was 'lost' and ask that I sign up again. I doubt the system will work as they say on December 1st.

    November 24, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  4. Thomas Jackson

    The GOP is quite uninterested in questioning the contractor. Curious.
    My take? Why couldn't we get people to do the coding who were vetted by Zuckerberg or Gates?
    They would have done that... They know good coders!

    November 24, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  5. Thomas Jackson

    "If we could fire them, we would"
    My question: Why did you hire them in the first place?
    Do we not have some of the best coders in the world here in the USA?
    Aren't some of them incredibly smart and rich?
    Do you doubt they would have helped if asked? I don't. I think they would.

    November 24, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  6. BAM

    This story speaks for itself. The incompetence, ignorance and arrogance of the current administration is embarrassing.

    "Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”
    ― Ann Landers

    November 24, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  7. Leftshot

    Unfortunately, the website debacle doesn't even make the top 12 list of broken promises of ObamaCare. Take a look at these 12 devastating proven lies President Obama has repeatedly declared to sell ObamaCare.

    1. "If you like your health plan, you can keep your plan–period."

    2. Arguing that the failure of the “like your plan” pledge only affects “5 percent of the population”

    3. "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor–period."

    4. "They’ll be able to get better care at the same cost or cheaper."

    5. “What we intended to do…is to make sure that everybody is moving into better plans because they want ’em, as opposed to because they’re forced into it.”

    6. Regarding the President's broken promise on keeping your plan: "We’re gonna do everything we can to get [it] fixed."

    7. "if you're one of the tens of millions of Americans who don't currently have health insurance, the second part of this plan will finally offer you quality, affordable choices."

    8. " no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place."

    9. "we’ll lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family per year….. We’ll do it by the end of my first term as President of the United States.”

    10. "I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits - either now or in the future. I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit, now or in the future, period."

    11. “And to prove that I'm serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don't materialize.”

    12. "the Affordable Care Act will reduce the number of uninsured by 32 million"

    November 24, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  8. Katie B

    I signed up at Healthcare.gov on Saturday and I'm going to save nearly $130/month for a better policy. I'm so happy! My deductible is going from $5000/yr down to $500/yr, my prescriptions are going to be $80/month less, and my doctor is in the network. Woohoo!!!

    I got one of those "cancellation" letters from my insurance company and they tried to put me in a plan that would've cost nearly three times what I had been paying. Thank goodness I didn't just roll over and take it! Anyone who gets one of those letters and doesn't check out the ACA options is throwing away money. So if you hear someone complaining about getting "cancelled," be sure they know they don't have to accept the insurance company's suggestion. They'll thank you for it.

    November 24, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  9. davidfarrar

    And why, pray tell, are the use of cheaper generic drugs not part of at least one plans in Obamacare; you know, to lower premiums?

    ex animo

    November 24, 2013 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  10. simplyput

    Another day, another lie.

    November 24, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
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