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Administration Officials Were Apparently Warned in July That Obamacare Site Could Crash

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A Centers for Medicare and Medicaid official warned his associates back in July that the Obamacare website would likely crash due to system errors and programming inefficiencies, according to new documents released by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Friday.

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Documents show CMS deputy chief information officer Henry Chao questioned the wisdom of providing GCI Federal, one of the contractors responsible for building healthcare.gov, with an additional $38 million to continue its work on the site.

“I just need to feel more confident they are not going to crash the plane at take-off, regardless of price," Chao wrote.

From July 8 to July 20, CMS officials in a series of emails expressed concerns over the site's progress, one official even characterizing the website’s build as being “way off track.”

“We believe that our entire build is in jeopardy,” one official said in an email.

A separate email would appear to show that Chao was worried the site’s many faults would conflict with testimony provided earlier in the summer to Congress.

CMS director Marilyn Tavenner "and I under oath stated we are going to make October 1st,” Chao said in a July 20 email.

The agency, for its part, is taking umbrage at the newly released emails, saying they don’t accurately depict what went on among agency officials.

“This email discusses one small piece of ongoing discussions about managing deliverables and communicating expectations that were on a short timeline to meet October 1st,” CMS spokeswoman Patti Unruh told The Washington Post. “Management concerns about meeting timelines are expected for any project of this size and scope.”

CGI’s vice president for global communications said in a statement Friday that federal officials disrupted the site’s progress via micromanaging and by constantly shifting company goals.

“As we have throughout this project, CGI is 100 percent focused on delivering not only its portion of Healthcare.gov but improving the overall system. Evolving requirements and shifting priorities had a significant effect on the design, development and deployment of the technology prior to launch,” Linda Odorisio said. “Instead of looking backwards, CGI is eyes forward, working with CMS and QSSI to continuously improve system performance and end user experience.”

CGI is the parent company of GCI Federal, the Post noted.

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

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