Darrell Issa Will Investigate Why Obamacare Window Shoppers Had to Register

The last-minute change to HealthCare.gov was requested by CMS and not fully tested, contractors said.

Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) arrives for a House Oversight Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, September 19, 2013.
National Journal
Clara Ritger
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Clara Ritger
Oct. 24, 2013, 9:10 a.m.

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.

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