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Policy: Technology

White House: Obama was aware of March report on website problems

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Politics,White House,Barack Obama,Obamacare,Health and Human Services,Health Care,PennAve,Susan Crabtree,Kathleen Sebelius,Jay Carney,Healthcare.gov,Technology

The White House admitted on Tuesday that President Obama was aware of a report drafted in March that warned about potential troubles with the Obamacare website, but cautioned that he never knew the full extent of the technical glitches.

“Flags were raised throughout the development of the website, as would be the case for any project of this project of this size and complexity,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday at his daily briefing. “But nobody anticipated the size and scope of the problems we experienced once the site was launched.”

Carney said Obama himself was briefed, as were top HHS official on the report by McKinsey & Co., a private consulting firm. But he stressed that no one in the administration had any idea that the website problems were significant enough to prevent hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans from enrolling in Obamacare’s insurance exchanges.

“The president received regular briefings on various aspects of implementing the ACA [Affordable Care Act], including the recommendations from this review and the steps that [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services], HHS and others had taken to address those recommendations,” he said.

“But certainly we never expected, he was certainly not told and nobody here was told because there was not this expectation, that the site would perform as poorly as it did,” Carney added.

The comments came the same day Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released documents showing that the Obama administration was warned as early as March about the potential risk with the implementation of Healthcare.gov.

The documents show that key officials at the White House and HHS received briefings this past spring from McKinsey after the firm reviewed more than 200 documents and conducted interviews with HHS staff to try to find and solve potential problems before the Oct. 1 website launch.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., used the documents to challenge the accuracy of testimony by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius back in April that the site was “on track.”

The McKinsey report is fueling calls for the president to hold those responsible for the website's failures accountable and raising questions about why administration officials did not flag problems in the rollout sooner.

On Wednesday, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a staunch supporter of the president and Obamacare, called for an administration shakeup in response to the website failures that have damaged public perception and threaten to undermine the law.

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