The Obama administration’s lack of clear leadership and push to launch HealthCare.gov on schedule despite clear concerns led to the website’s disastrous roll out, a Tuesday report from the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services concluded.
Users trying to purchase insurance through the federal marketplace – which continues to face challenges – experienced a slew of technical difficulties upon its launch Oct. 1, 2013.
According to the government watchdog, which looked through five years worth of documents during its investigation, the lack of coordination between HHS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and contractors further muddled attempts to correct the issues after the website went live.
“The development of HealthCare.gov faced a high risk of failure, given the technical complexity required, the fixed deadline, and a high degree of uncertainty about mission, scope, and funding,” the report reads. “Still, we found that HHS and CMS made many missteps throughout development and implementation that led to the poor launch.”
The finding show CMS failed to recognize the gravity of the problems as the project fell apart and rushed into corrections, which proved to be insufficient, instead of requesting more time despite the blatant red flags.
“Additional HHS and CMS missteps included devoting too much time to developing policy, which left too little time for developing the website; making poor technical decisions; and failing to properly manage its key website development contract,” the study said. “CMS’s organizational structure and culture also hampered progress, including poor coordination between policy and technical work, resistance to communicating and heeding warnings of ‘bad news,’ and reluctance to alter plans in the face of problems.”
A deputy director at the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight said the “White House was in charge” and their heavy involvement caused policy complications and delays.
It took two months for the website to be able to handle high traffic, after a “badgeless” culture was adopted where staffers and contractors better collaborated to prioritize tasks.
“Today, the Obama Administration’s own oversight chiefs confirm what has long been said by Republicans in Congress: the administration’s commitment to launching HealthCare.gov trumped known concerns about its security, integrity and workability,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said in a statement. “The result, as we now know, left many to navigate a taxpayer-funded website that was unsecure and plagued with performance problems. And even today, as recent reports from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office have shown, this administration continues to put politics ahead of security in regards to the Obamacare website, leaving taxpayers and patients at risk.”
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