Top Oversight Dem slams Issa for HealthCare.gov claims

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The top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee says he has evidence that contradicts information Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has released about the number of users HealthCare.gov was expected to handle.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote to Issa, the chairman of the committee, on Friday asking that he apologize to White House spokesman Jay Carney and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park.

Issa has hit the administration hard on the troubled rollout of Healthcare.gov. 

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The lawmaker claimed in an interview on Fox News Thursday that Park engaged in “a pattern of interference and false statements” about the site and that “Jay Carney is paid to say things that just aren’t so." 

And, on Wednesday, Republicans on the Oversight panel released a testing document it obtained, which claimed the ObamaCare website was only able to handle 1,100 users the day before it launched Oct. 1. Administration officials said they had expected up to 60,000.

Cummings paints a different picture in his letter. He noted that the committee interviewed Henry Chao, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’s deputy chief information officer, on Nov. 1 and that Chao provided a user number closer to the original projection.

Officials had projected 58,000 users to access HealthCare.gov when it launched, Chao said, based on testing. 

Issa did not include that information in the document he released Wednesday, and Cummings said the 1,100 users Issa was referring to were results from a much smaller testing environment.

“Based on information obtained by the Committee, it appears that you fundamentally misunderstood or mischaracterized the document you released to the press yesterday and that your accusations against Mr. Park and Mr. Carney are wholly unfounded,” Cummings wrote in the letter.

“Given that your staff participated in Mr. Chao’s transcribed interview last week — before you issued your press release and conducted your television interview — it is unclear why you did not disclose the information Mr. Chao provided, but instead chose to accuse Mr. Park and Mr. Carney of misleading the American people.”

Cummings added, “This is not the first time you have accused a White House official of being a ‘paid liar,’ a practice that several of your Republican colleagues have condemned.”

A Committee spokesman responded to Cummings' letter Friday afternoon.

"Ranking Member Cummings’ attempted distortions are continually shameless," he said in a statement to The Hill. "While Ranking Member Cummings holds out Mr. Chao’s testimony that the system was 'designed to handle 50,000 concurrent users,' he omits Chao’s reply when asked how many it could actually handle on October 1."

The spokesman provided The Hill with Chao's response to that question, which Cummings didn't include in his letter.

"Maybe 8,000? Somewhere under 10,000. I don't have the exact metrics, but I know that it wasn't 30,000 registrations per hour."

A Democratic committee staffer shot back late Friday afternoon. 

“After apparently completely abandoning their 1,100 user claim, they are now trying to confuse matters even more by citing a statement from Mr. Chao about a different component – the EIDM, or the registration process– instead of the FFM, the online application marketplace.”

 

In additional excerpts from the Chao interview provided to The Hill, he explained the 8,000 to 10,000—which Issa refers too—represented the amount of people the EIDM could handle on HealthCare.gov. The marketplace itself, however, could handle 50,000 users when it launched. 

Over the last few weeks, Issa has been releasing memos and documents the committee has obtained from people involved with the ObamaCare rollout, which have exposed its internal problems. 

Issa has threatened to subpoena Obama administration officials who have knowledge of the marketplace’s unveiling, including Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  

— This post was updated at 4:49. It was first updated at 3:03 p.m.

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