The Corner

WaPo: Healthcare.gov’s Creation Beleaguered by Politics

The Obama administration knew the launch of its federal-exchange website would be crucial to the health-care law’s success, but failed to take the necessary steps to ensure it was properly created, according to the Washington Post.

A lengthy report in the Washington Post from this weekend found that a muddled structure within the administration plagued the Healthcare.gov website from the day the law passed. Hours after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama told staffers to start working on the website right away, claiming the website was the most important part of the law. But no specific official or office within the Department of Health and Human Services was tasked with the exchange’s creation, and responsibility for its development was fragmented across the department. Additionally, the officials in change of overseeing its implementation lacked the managerial and technological experience to effectively lead the effort.

Nonetheless, the administration pushed forward, despite concerns from HHS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials, because it wanted to protect the health-care law from political attacks from Republicans leading up to the 2012 presidential elections. Medicare’s chief actuary told the Post that the administration seemed willing to risk a troubled implementation “for a short-term political gain.” 

Over the course of the next several months, Capitol Hill Democrats grew upset with the administration’s secrecy on the law’s implementation; for example, in one meeting in June this year, White House officials did not inform Democratic House leadership that it would be delaying the employer’s mandate just a week later.

As early as January of this year, CMS warned that there would not be enough time for the necessary testing of the website at the rate its development was going. By mid-August, an employee of CGI, one of the companies contracted with creating the website, said that had completed only 55 percent of its responsibilities for the site.

But the White House continued to pay little heed to warnings, urging the importance of meeting the deadlines. In September, a month before the launch of Healthcare.gov, CMS staffers were worried that the website would not work when White House officials arrived for a final demonstration. “Yet on that day, using a simplified demonstration application, the Web site appeared to work just fine,” the Post concluded.

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