The Obama administration knew in advance that Obamacare’s online small business (SHOP) exchanges would not be ready by deadline and agreed to delay part of the website as early as August, according to emails obtained by House Energy and Commerce Committee investigators.
The Committee accused Obama administration officials of misleading Congress about the website’s progress.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) officials and Obamacare website contractor CGI Federal secretly agreed that the SHOP program would have to be delayed more than a month before the administration told the American public that the program would still be ready on time.
CMS and CGI Federal agreed on Aug. 13 that SHOP would not be ready and would have to be delayed until Nov. 15. The administration then waited a month before announcing on Sept. 26 that ”The SHOP Marketplace for Federally-facilitated Marketplace states opens Oct. 1, 2013, when small employers can start the application process and get an overview of available plans and premiums in their area. All functions for SHOP will be available in November and if employers and employees enroll by Dec. 15, 2013, coverage will begin Jan. 1, 2014.”
The administration’s announcement came just one week before employers were set to begin using SHOP. On Nov. 27, President Obama finally delayed the glitch-ridden SHOP exchanges by one year.
The emails paint a picture of an administration desperate to avoid public embarrassment and unwilling to delay launch deadlines, despite glaring flaws with the website.
“I’ve escalated your concerns regarding the SHOP Employee application not being completed until 10/15/13,” CMS official Jo-Ann Webber emailed on July 26, indicating that the administration knew that SHOP would not be completed until more than two weeks after its scheduled launch date.
“I am not recommending delay of the employer application,” fellow CMS official Dean Mohs replied to Webber.
“Guys, this is absolutely urgent and I need an answer on this today. If this is late we have to public[ly] announce we are late with a deliverable which means Marilyn Tavenner and the Secretary will have to announce,” CMS official Monique Outerbridge said on Aug. 6.
Nevertheless, CGI Federal presented its plan to roll out SHOP on deadline, and CMS official Henry Chao asked, “Can we sign this [plan] in blood?”