Health Site Infighting Detailed in Emails

   < < Go Back
from The New York Times,

Senior federal officials involved in building the website were deeply concerned this summer about delays as well as weaknesses in the quality and size of the contractor teams assigned to parts of the project, emails released by congressional investigators on Friday show.

The emails offer some of the first detailed evidence of which federal government officials had at least some knowledge that the start-up of the health care exchange might be troubled.

Henry Chao, the deputy chief information officer at the agency overseeing the project, warned seven other officials in July that the lead contractor, CGI Federal, had better accelerate the work.

“I just need to feel more confident they are not going to crash the plane at takeoff,” he wrote on July 16 to colleagues at the agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Mr. Chao’s general concerns about the pace of the project were known; he told industry executives at a conference in March that he was worried, remarking, “Let’s just make sure it’s not a third world experience.”

But the email exchanges released on Friday make clear that there was growing friction between the federal government and CGI, a Canadian company, as the project missed various deadlines even as the Oct. 1 start-up of the federal marketplace site was approaching.

There apparently was also tension between two contractors: CGI, which was leading the effort, and QSSI, a Maryland company that was supposed to test the computer programs to ensure that they worked.

“This is internal infighting and reflects the lack of a strong, single manager at C.M.S. to drive the program,” one employee said.

The problems were particularly acute with a part of the project that was supposed to help manage the processing of insurance payments.

“The FM build appears to be way off track and getting worse,” a federal official, Jeff Grant, wrote in an email on July 8, referring to the Financial Management project. Up to that point, the email added, “they have never revealed the seriously substandard level of staffing that this team has.”

Mr. Grant went on to write, “We believe that our entire build is in jeopardy.”

More From The New York Times: