The Obamacare website rollout – that fiasco that reportedly allowed one single signup on the first day – was a case of that old saying, “Ready, fire, aim,” according to a new 34-page report from members of the U.S. Senate.
“Today’s report shows how the actions of politically motivated administration officials botched the rollout of HealthCare.gov and wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
He’s the ranking member of the Senate Finance committee, and joined with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to release the report, “Red Flags: How Politics and Poor Management Led to the Meltdown of HealthCare.gov.”
“The findings of this report show the inexcusable nature of the administration’s disastrous failures,” Hatch said. “Unfortunately, it should come as no surprise that this administration once again chose to put political expediency ahead of security and performance concerns.”
The report accused administration managers of simply not paying any attention to a multitude of red flags in their attempt to set up a website to manage health-care decisions across the nation.
“Officials ignored countless red flags to launch a website with thousands of defects. The breakdown [of HealthCare.gov] was not a surprise to dozens of high level officials within CMS and HHS, nor to hundreds of individuals working for the contractors who had developed the code for the website. These individuals were aware for months of gaping holes in testing, critical security concerns, and failures under the most modest simulations,” the report said.
“As we have seen in delay after delay, the administration continues to simply ignore the fundamental flaws of the law instead of honestly acknowledging to American families that the law does not work. In the end, the problem with Obamacare is not just the failed rollout of HealthCare.gov, but the failed policies of the law that restrict patient choice and expand the powers of a bloated federal government,” Hatch said.
Not only was there a huge hole in oversight for the project, the White House applied political pressure for the site to go live Oct. 1, 2013, when it still was unfinished, untested, unlinked and not operational.
“The administration looked the other way on problems, even when the independent contractor hired to monitor the project was waving red flags, pointing to likely failure,” added Grassley.
“This website wasn’t a ‘Field of Dreams’ fantasy where you hope for the best and everything works out because it’s a movie. This involved taxpayer money and website users who wasted their time on something that wasn’t working. When political will overpowers practical considerations, you get a mess like this website rollout.”
One of the problems was that there was no single person or entity with the authority to oversee the whole project.
“The Obama administration failed to task any one individual or entity within HHS or CMS with ensuring the success of the public face of Obamacare. While there were individuals and entities tasked with building and coordinating many of the business level components of the website, there was no central coordinator fully responsible for the development of the website, and no single contractor had the authority to direct other contractors,” the report said.
And it pointedly addressed the politics of Obama’s signature presidential legislation.
“Rather than delegate responsibility fully to HHS and/or CMS, the White House continually meddled in technical decisions and put pressure on CMS officials to launch the website on time, regardless of operability and security concerns,” it said.
The website was intended to be the face of Obama’s health-care industry takeover, and the HHS told the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to design and create the software and technology for it to operate.
“CMS failed to put one official in charge of the entire project nor did CMS hire a lead contractor to direct the work of the many contractors tasked with building HealthCare.gov,” it said.
The politics included having the HHS delay “issuing unpopular regulations until after the 2012 elections, in early 2013, leaving CMS and its contractors only a handful of months to develop and test critical systems,” the report said.
Then warnings that the system wasn’t operational were ignored, it said.
“The issues that occurred with respect to the launch of HealthCare.gov were largely preventable if thoughtful consideration had been given to an overall implementation plan rather than a trial and error approach. The outcome is that millions of taxpayer dollars were spent unnecessarily, and potential enrollees endured unacceptably long wait times and the threat of not receiving coverage,” the report said.
“The administration prioritized political success over protecting taxpayer dollars.”
The Republican report said while the Democrat administration had spent $834 million developing the site, HHS’ “total spending plan” to support the federal marketplace for fiscal year 2014 was $1.4 billion.
“This is a staggering amount of taxpayer funds to enroll a few million people. In addition to the waste and inefficiency, the people forced to use the website had to waste time and effort dealing with a dysfunctional system,” the report said.
The report pointed out that only a month before it went live, of the 355,000 lines of code for the Federally Facilitated Marketplace, 21,000 lines had defects.