Officials feared HealthCare.gov meltdown

Officials in charge of implementing the HealthCare.gov website feared a “meltdown” similar to the botched rollout of a 2005 program in the days leading up to Oct. 1, according to emails obtained by congressional Republicans. 

Five days before the website was set to launch, Henry Chao, deputy chief information officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), sent out an urgent email in all caps to get his staff’s attention. 

“I DO NOT WANT A REPEAT OF WHAT HAPPENED NEAR THE END OF DECEMBER 2005 WHERE MEDICARE.GOV HAD A MELTDOWN (THIS IS TO GET YOUR ATTENTION IF I DIDN’T HAVE IT ALREADY,” he said in an email on Sept. 26. 

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Chao’s email was in response to a briefing that several performance stress tests of the website were “not good” or inconsistent, according to an email by Akhtar Zaman, who works in the CMS Office of Information Services. 

Up until the Sunday before the launch, Zaman said the CMS would continue to test until the website could handle “at least 10k concurrent users and eventually 50k.”

Many Democrats have compared the shaky rollout of ObamaCare to the Medicare Part D program implemented by the President George W. Bush administration, arguing that despite the early setbacks of the 2005 program, it has become widely popular. 

The emails released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee are the latest in a series of documents House Republicans have dripped out regarding the days leading up to the botched rollout. 

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a series of emails Wednesday night that showed Chao’s concern about the PR nightmare that might ensue from the stalled website. 

The White House has taken responsibility for the botched rollout of the website and has predicted an 80 percent success rate for people enrolling online by the end of the month. A little more than 106,000 had enrolled in ObamaCare through October.

Democrats have blasted the slow release of information by the committees as cherry-picking data that reveals no real new information.