How the Healthcare.gov Failure Will Morph Into Obamacaregate

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 22 2013 1:58 PM

How the Healthcare.gov Failure Will Morph Into Obamacaregate

On Thursday, when contractors who helped build healthcare.gov come back to Congress, you will hear a lot more about CGI Federal. The Canadian-owned company built the website, and in testimony from Sept. 10, it told the skeptical House Energy and Commerce Committee that things were going just great.

To date, the FFM implementation has achieved all of its key milestones from the initial Architecture Review in October 2011 to Project Baseline Review in March 2012 and, most recently, the Operational Readiness Review in September 2013. Additionally, in April 2013, health insurers began submitting their plans to the system for review by CMS. Starting in August 2013, consumers were able to go into the system and register their accounts.  At this time, CGI Federal is confident that it will deliver the functionality that CMS has directed to enable qualified individuals to begin enrolling in coverage when the initial enrollment period begins.
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Well. In announcing this new hearing, Republicans complained that "[f]or months, administration officials and contractors alike assured committee members that implementation was 'on track' for the October 1 rollout, but the first three weeks of open enrollment have been defined by significant systems failures." There's a contradiction here, and there's a party remaining silent. What do HHS staffers think of the mess? How much did they know before Oct. 1?

If the investigations into Fast and Furious and the IRS scandal tell us anything, the next phase of GOP sleuthing into Obamacare will probably be subpoenas and other requests that produce awkward communication (emails, mostly) from HHS and contractors. There will be lower-level bureaucrats who get caught out for saying the wrong thing, or encouraging others not to say the wrong thing. It's incredible that HHS et al. built this system for years with nary a leak about possible glitches in the system. 

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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