Despite Leadership Role, CMS HealthCare.gov Project Manager Out of the Loop on March 2013 Report Prepared At the Request Of CMS

November 19, 2013

At today’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on “Security of HealthCare.gov,” the Deputy Chief Information Officer and Deputy Director of the Office of Information Services at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Henry Chao, testified that he had never been shown a presentation prepared at the request of CMS by McKinsey & Co. regarding the implementation of HealthCare.gov. Chao was the project manager for the new website. The committee has learned that the presentation was given by McKinsey & Co. to top officials at the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House in late March and early April of 2013. Despite Chao’s integral role in implementing the exchanges, Chao told subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA), “I haven’t seen that presentation … I was not given the final report.” Chao told the committee he had been interviewed by those preparing the report, but until today had never seen the presentation warning of the challenges to meeting the October 1 start of open enrollment.

Now eight weeks after the start of open enrollment, HealthCare.gov is yet to be fully operational. Even the administration itself has begun moving the goalposts again, recently scaling expectations for the website to be at just 80 percent by November 30. The document prepared by McKinsey & Co. indicates that top officials involved with implementation were warned as early as April of the challenges to meeting the October 1 deadline. The report warns that one of the risks to implementation was “Failure to resolve post-launch issues rapidly.”

Chao’s lack of awareness of the report speaks to a point made in the report itself, that there was “No single empowered decision-making authority,” and that there was no “shared definition of success.” Last week, President Obama told the American people that as of just two weeks prior to launch, he “was not informed directly that the website would not be working the way it was supposed to.” It’s clear that the administration’s transparency problem with the American people is also a transparency problem within the administration itself.

Watch Chairman Murphy’s exchange with Mr. Chao here.

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