Is an Obama administration official escaping blame for the catastrophic Healthcare.gov website?
While two leading high-tech contractors have been widely held to account for the Obamacare portal’s tech meltdown, one White House official has not been fingered despite his central involvement in building the website.
WND has found that U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park has been in charge of the Healthcare.gov project since Obamacare was passed in March 2010.
In fact, one White House news release states Park “created” Healthcare.gov.
Mandated by the Affordable Care Act, Healthcare.gov was officially launched in July 2010.
A July 3, 2010, Department of Health and Human Services press release quoted Park, then the chief HHS technology officer, as stating, “This website is unlike any government website you have ever seen or used before.”
Continued Park: “It was developed with significant consumer input and is remarkably easy to navigate. This is despite the sheer volume of content it offers consumers: billions of health care choices through the insurance finder and more than 500 pages of new content, all of which is designed to grow with ongoing consumer feedback and as our health care system improves.”
At the time, Park developed Healthcare.gov as the first central database of health coverage options.
The site combined “information about public programs, from Medicare to the new Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plan, with information from more than 1,000 private insurance plans,” according to the press release.
In November 2010, Park announced what he described as “good news.”
“We’ve updated the Healthcare.gov Insurance Finder to include more private insurance plans and health insurance companies,” Park stated in another HHS press release.
“The Insurance Finder allows you to compare different plans, showing important information that has never before been made public, such as the percentage of people who applied for coverage and were denied.”
In July 2012, Nextgov.com reported it was Park who tapped the private sector to drive innovation, including at the HHS websites.
Eventually, two high-tech contractors, CGI Federal and UnitedHealth Group unit Quality Software Services Inc (QSSI), were brought in to administer and expand Healthcare.gov.
CGI Federal, based in Canada, was the main contractor behind the site. While the company has been taking most of the heat for the technological problems, CGI is blaming QSSI and the federal government for Healthcare.gov’s poor performance.
CGI senior Vice President Cheryl Campbell told the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week, “Unfortunately, the (front door software) created a bottleneck that prevented the vast majority of users from accessing [Healthcare.gov].”
Andrew Slavitt, executive vice president with QSSI’s parent company, fired back that the website jamming was a result of a “late decision” that required users to register on the site before browsing for insurance products.
Slavitt, however, did not mention who made the decision.
Meanwhile, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has been criticized by the White House for asking Park to testify. White House officials claimed Park was too busy attempting to fix Healthcare.gov and that his attending a congressional hearing would stall the repair efforts. Eventually, Park agreed to testify.
In a letter to Park asking him to testify, Issa said it was unacceptable that Park had found time to speak to the news media but not appear before Congress.
Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote that millions of Americans “have lost their health insurance and are rapidly approaching a point where they must begin to prepare for the possibility of having no health insurance on Jan. 1, 2014.”
“They deserve your sworn testimony before their elected representatives about what went wrong – not simply media outlets that White House officials have deemed an appropriate use of your time away from working on the website project,” Issa said.
At the age of 24, Park co-founded the health-care technology company Athenahealth, which went public with a market capitalization exceeding $1 billion.
He reportedly began his business career as a consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, the firm that has been in the news lately for its employment of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
With research by Brenda J. Elliott.