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Policy: Technology

CMS spokeswoman says revealing size of Obamacare 'tech surge' would be a distraction

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Beltway Confidential,Philip Klein,Obamacare,CMS,Healthcare.gov,Technology

Reporters have been doggedly trying to obtain the names of the companies or individuals brought in to help fix problems facing President Obama's health care law, but they've had about as much luck figuring out who is involved in the “tech surge” as learning the identities of SEAL Team Six members.

On a conference call last Thursday supposedly held to provide an operational update on the status of the tech surge, Julie Bataille, communications director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, boasted about how “the country's leading innovators and problem solvers” had been brought in to deal with the technological issues facing Healthcare.gov.

But she wouldn’t name names.

On another conference call Friday, Bataille and former Office of Management and Budget acting director Jeff Zients, who has been brought in to oversee the tech surge, deflected repeated attempts by reporters to learn the identities, saying that they just wanted these brilliant minds to be able to keep their heads down and focused on the task at hand.

On a Monday afternoon conference call, Alex Wayne of Bloomberg News tried a different approach. Instead of attempting to ask the names of those involved in the tech surge, he asked Batille how many people were involved.

Yet apparently even that was too much to ask, because Bataille responded that she didn’t want those working on the project to be “distracted.”

Because clearly, if the American public is aware of how many people are involved in this project, the brilliant technology wizzes our government has brought on board won’t be able to get any work done at all.

It just makes me think: Imagine how many more burgers McDonald's would sell each year if they hadn't been dumb enough to publicly disclose that they had 1.9 million employees worldwide.

A full transcript of Wayne’s exchange with Bataille follows:

BLOOMBERG’S WAYNE: Can you guys tell us about when you consider the “tech surge” to have begun and how many people – both federal workers and contractors – were working on the site before and after those dates?

CMS SPOKESWOMAN BATAILLE: So, Alex. I’d say it was roughly about a week ago, I think you’ll probably remember, when we posted a blog announcing a number of steps we were taking to reinforce and strengthen the team working on Healthcare.gov. I’m sorry I don’t have an actual number for you, but what I can tell you is that we certainly want this team focused on what we brought them in to do, which is fixing the problems and I’m sure you can appreciate that we don’t want them distracted right now and that it’s important for them to be part of our 24/7 effort.

WAYNE: I’m not asking for names, just a number. Just to quantify the size of the surge.

BATAILLE: I understand, I can see if we can get one to you after.

You can follow Wayne on Twitter at @aawayne to see if he ever does get an answer.

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