By Columnist Jim Kouri
U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee leaders are demanding information from Obamacare's top technology officials regarding the creation federal insurance exchange web site, HealthCare.gov, according to a letter sent to White House officials on Tuesday.
The letter alleges that the Obama administration ordered the web site designers and creators to hide price comparisons from Americans until after they registered and provided all personal information.
According to the lawmakers, information obtained by the Oversight Committee reveals that just one month before the web site’s launch Obama's minions "directed contractors to change the site’s design to hide price comparisons from unregistered shoppers."
“Given the information gathered by the Committee thus far, we are concerned that the Administration required contractors to change course late in the implementation process to conceal Obamacare’s effect on increasing health insurance premiums,” according to the Oversight Committee's letter to Steve Van Roekel, the chief information officer, and Todd Park, the chief technology officer, at the White House Office of Management and Budget.
The letter also states:
“We believe that the political decision to mask the ‘sticker shock’ of Obamacare to the American people prevented contractors from using universally accepted and OMB-advocated IT ‘best practices’ in the development and roll out of this massive federal government IT project. When prudent design and programming decisions are subordinated to politics, the result is the chaotic mess we have today.”
The letter is signed by Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Subcommittee Chairmen John Mica, R-Fla., James Lankford, R-Okla., Jim Jordan, R-Ohio and Blake Farenthold, R-Texas.
It cites the Jan. 9, 2013 and the Oct. 16, 2013 meetings with CGI Federal Inc., one of the major contractors tasked with building the federal health insurance exchange web site. According to critics of the web site and its less-than-audacious debut on Oct. 1, 2013, CGI had a major Canadian contract allegedly canceled due to the company's poor performance. CGI is a Canadian-based firm and the web site is the result of outsourcing, something the Democrats accused the Republicans of advocating, say conservatives.
The letter further states:
“CGI officials told Committee staff that CMS officials and employees constantly mentioned the ‘White House’ when discussing matters with CGI. For example, CMS officials would routinely state: ‘this is what the White House wants,’” the letter continues. “Moreover, CGI officials told Committee staff that the ability to shop for health insurance without registering for an account – a central design feature of the health insurance exchange – was removed ‘in late August or early September.’
“Although, CGI officials were not able to identify who within the Administration made the decision to disable the anonymous shopping feature, evidence is mounting that political considerations motivated the decision,”The Oversight Committee possesses legislative jurisdiction over federal information technology (IT) acquisition. Most recently, the Committee released a June 2013 staff report on flawed contracting processes for IT purchases at the IRS, according to the lawmakers, who are all Republicans.
Congressman Issa's committee has also sent several letters to Health and Human Services’ Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about contracting practices at HHS and HHS’s role in Obamacare implementation.
In September 2013, the Committee also issued a highly critical report detailing the security risks posed by the Administration’s Navigator and Assister outreach campaign and the lack of background investigations of these newly hired workers.