GOP: White House meddling caused mess at HealthCare.gov

Meddling by the White House was partially responsible for the botched launch of HealthCare.gov last fall, Senate Republicans charged in a new report released Thursday.

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Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) detailed the website's troubled construction in a blistering post-mortem nine months after the debut of the federal ObamaCare exchange.

The senators said involvement by the White House delayed the assembly of HealthCare.gov and forced its launch when the system was barely functional.

Federal health officials were also "dissuaded ... from voicing their concerns" about technical glitches because the Oct. 1 rollout of the site was a priority for the White House.

"Political concerns should not trump operational decisions," the GOP report says.

"No one wanted to be the messenger that told the White House that its signature piece of legislation was going to crash at takeoff. The administration prioritized political success over protecting taxpayer dollars."

A spokesman for the administration defended its effort to fix the website after Oct. 1 and said the final enrollment numbers show the healthcare law has been a success.

"It’s well known that we faced challenges during the launch of HealthCare.gov," said Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) spokesman Aaron Albright in a statement.

"We immediately worked to fix the issues and developed new management processes, and exceeded many independent predictions with more than 8 million consumers signing up for private insurance coverage."

Last fall, nearly three straight months of negative news about ObamaCare's rollout plunged the White House into chaos and dented President Obama's poll numbers.

Republicans had a field day with the bungled rollout, arguing it was evidence the entire law was doomed to failure.

Since the administration reported more than 8 million enrollments, the GOP has grown less vocal in its criticism, though the party expects dissatisfaction with the law to boost their candidates in November.

Thursday's report attempted to compile the management failures that contributed to the website's problems, as well as the "red flags" noticed by contractors and CMS officials before the system launched.

The 34-page document includes new details about TurningPoint, a contractor hired to review the technology behind HealthCare.gov.

The company repeatedly expressed concerns in the year before the site launched, including a warning last September that more than 21,000 lines of code were defective.

TurningPoint also reported 677 "serious defects" two weeks before Oct. 1, calling it a "high number" for that stage in the rollout.

The report called on the CMS to heed lessons learned before November, when ObamaCare's next enrollment period begins, and blamed the agency for poor management.

"The issues that occurred with respect to the launch of HealthCare.gov were largely preventable," the document says.

"The outcome is that millions of taxpayer dollars were spent unnecessary, and potential enrollees endured unacceptably long wait times and the threat of not receiving coverage."

Albright said the CMS will be prepared for the law's second enrollment period.

"Taking all the lessons learned, we are looking forward to November 15 by making additional improvements to technology and management structures so that millions more Americans can sign up for quality, affordable coverage," he said.