U.S. official in July feared Obamacare website ‘crash’

U.S. official in July feared Obamacare website ‘crash’

HEALTHCARE HEADACHES: Officials were raising red flags about possible problems with months before its launch. Photo: Associated Press

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Almost three months before the botched launch of, a U.S. health official expressed frustration with a main contractor working on the website, fearing quality assurance issues could “crash the plane at take-off,” according to government documents obtained by Reuters.

The documents were released by Republican investigators with the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee. Republican lawmakers, who have consistently sought to undermine President Barack Obama’s signature health system overhaul, are probing the law’s disastrous rollout.

Two series of internal emails in July between officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), including project manager Henry Chao, describe struggles with contractors, staff shortages and software problems long before the federal healthcare website crashed on its October 1 launch and threw the rollout of Obamacare into political turmoil.

In a July 16 email sent ahead of a meeting with then-prime contractor CGI Federal, Chao describes the agency’s low confidence level in the project work, from constant struggles with releases to changing delivery dates and poor quality assurance on software.

“I just need to feel more confident they are not going to crash the plane at take-off,” Chao says in the email, which was among several documents the Republican investigators released.

Officials at CGI Federal, the U.S. subsidiary of Canada’s CGI Group Inc, were not immediately available for comment.

In congressional testimony released October 23, CGI Federal blamed early website problems on another contractor’s software and also said the federal government was ultimately responsible for the website’s performance.

CMS released a statement that did not directly address Chao’s email but described the challenging task of building “This is a complex project with a short timeline,” CMS said.

Chao, the deputy chief information officer at CMS, declined a request to speak directly with Reuters.

President Barack Obama and administration officials have come under fire for launching a malfunctioning website, but it’s not clear if officials knew the extent of the site’s problems or when they knew.

A day after writing the email about CGI, Chao assured a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that would be ready on time.

It is not known whether Chao learned new information to change his assessment in the intervening hours.

On July 20, he distributed a video link to the testimony via email and urged CMS staff to make good on the pledge to lawmakers.

“I wanted to share this with you so you can see and hear that both Marilyn and I under oath stated we are going to make October 1,” Chao wrote.

“I would like you (to) put yourself in my shoes standing before Congress, which in essence is standing before the American public, and know that you speak the tongue of not necessarily just past truths but the truth that you will make happen.”

But, the federal government’s health insurance marketplace portal for millions of uninsured people in 36 states, crashed shortly after its launch and has been plagued by technical problems even since.

Recent Headlines

in Sports

Keuchel, Astros beat Yankees in AL wild-card game


Dallas Keuchel pitched three-hit ball for six baffling innings, Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez each homered, and the Houston Astros beat the New York Yankees 3-0 Tuesday night in the American League wild-card game.

in Sports

Lynx pull out tense Game 2 to even WNBA Finals 1-1

Maya Moore Twitter

Sylvia Fowles made 10 of 13 shots for 21 points and Maya Moore added 19 points and eight boards for the Lynx, who are looking for their third championship in the last five years.

in Sports

UCLA’s injured LB Myles Jack drops out, heads to NFL


UCLA head coach Jim Mora says Jack and his family had already decided Jack should drop out of school to prepare for the NFL before speaking to Mora. The veteran NFL coach says the move is "very risky."

in Sports

Lukas Podolski out of Germany’s final Euro 2016 qualifiers

International Friendly match between Germany and USA at RheinEnergieStadion

Featuring: Lukas PODOLSKI
Where: Cologne, Germany
When: 10 Jun 2015
Credit: ATP/

**Not available for TV, Print in Germany. No Contact Music.**

The German football federation (DFB) says Podolski travelled with a swollen ankle from his club Galatasaray and was diagnosed upon arrival in Frankfurt with "a painful capsule irritation of the left upper ankle joint."

in Sports

ESPN cuts sponsored daily fantasy sports elements from shows

espn draftkings from cnn money via twitter

ESPN is cutting sponsored DraftKings content from within shows but continues broadcasting commercials from the daily fantasy sports site.

Bellingham Traffic