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Emails Show White House Concerned About Healthcare.gov Flop Six Days Before Launch

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The White House was concerned about HealthCare.gov problems six days before the troubled website’s launch, while a senior administration official worried about what kind of media coverage a nonfunctioning website would bring, according to an e-mail chain of Health and Human Services officials.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: Chairman U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa Mark Wilson/Getty Images 

 

In a Sept. 25, 2013 e-mail from Henry Chao, the chief information officer for the Centers for Medicaid and Medicaid Services to CMS staff talked about concerns from White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park and CMS Administrator Marilynn Tavenner.

“When Todd Park and Marilyn was here yesterday one of the things Todd conveyed was this fear the WH has about hc.gov being unavailable,” Chao said in the e-mail obtained by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is investigating the failures of the Obamacare rollout.

Later in the same email, Chao wrote to staff, “can you think about a better way to convey to the public when the site is not available? I am picturing in my mind all the major print and online publications taking screenshots of what is below and just ramping up the hyperbole about hc.gov not functional.”

In the e-mail, Chao included a picture of an error message which says, “The System is down at the moment.” The concerned were of course born out as beginning on Oct. 1, Americans who visited HealthCare.gov were informed the system is down.

The release of e-mails came the same day that President Barack Obama met with state insurance commissioners at the White House regarding the “fix” he announced last week in an attempt to keep the promise he made on 36 occasions that anyone who liked their health insurance plan could keep it. However, several states have rejected the idea.

However, several states – such as New York, Washington and Connecticut --have rejected the fix. The result of the meeting, according to the White House, is that it’s now up to the states whether people can keep their health insurance.

“The President and insurance commissioners also talked about the announcement last week to help smooth the transition to the new system by providing states with the option of allowing insurers to renew existing plans in 2014, and requiring that health plans that offer such renewals provide consumers with clear information about consumer protections lacking in those plans and their options and possible tax credits through the Marketplace,” the White House readout of the meeting said. “States have different populations with unique needs, and it is up to the insurance commissioner and health insurance companies to decide which insurance products can be offered to existing customers next year.”

Those attending the White House meeting with Obama included Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius;• Cecilia Muñoz, White House director of the Domestic Policy Council; White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler; National Association of Insurance Commissioners CEO Ben Nelson; Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon; North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin and Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Thomas Leonardi.

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