House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa announced earlier this week that he would investigate why CGI Federal was instructed at the last minute to disable the anonymous shopping feature on the Obamacare website and require consumers to create profiles before viewing health insurance prices.
The design has been criticized by web developers, who note it could be one of the reasons HealthCare.gov crashed.
At Thursday’s House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the faulty Obamacare website, Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., read portions of a letter from Issa, R-Calif., seeking a response from Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president at CGI Federal, the company contracted to create the online federal-exchange interface.
“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 letter reads.
Issa’s office confirmed Thursday they were briefed last week by CGI officials. Campbell cast doubt on Issa’s letter.
“I don’t believe that members of CGI actually made those statements directly in that manner,” Campbell said. “I think they may have been taken out of context but I’d have to get back to you on that and no the White House has not given us direct instructions.”
A spokesperson from Issa’s office said Butterfield’s question wasn’t worded carefully enough. The letter specifically says the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was giving instructions to CGI, and when pressed for justification of the site changes, CMS would say it was what the White House wanted, the spokesperson said.
Later in the hearing, Campbell confirmed that two weeks before going live, CMS instructed CGI to disable the feature to allow anonymous shopping.
That last-minute change required testing, said Andrew Slavitt, vice president at QSSI, the company hired to work on the Data Hub and other verification aspects of HealthCare.gov.
“We informed CMS that more testing was necessary; we informed CMS of the pieces of the system that had issues that we had tested,” Slavitt said.
Unanswered at Thursday’s hearing was who decided to move forward with the Oct. 1 launch and why, the questions Issa is seeking to answer in his investigation.