Health reform implementation

Report: Obama considered scrapping and starting over

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President Obama considered scrapping and starting over at the height of the website’s problems last fall, according to a report in Time magazine.

The revelation underscores the total chaos that faced the White House and federal health officials in October when ObamaCare’s enrollment website was barely functioning.

{mosads}In a lengthy piece, journalist Steven Brill reported that Obama sent White House chief of staff Denis McDonough to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in October to determine whether the site could be fixed.

McDonough described the central question of his mission as: “Can it be patched and improved to work, or does it need to be scrapped to start over?

“[Obama] wanted to know if this thing is salvageable,” McDonough added.

Brill’s nearly 7,000-word piece explores the technical challenge of repairing and the team of experts who worked around the clock for nearly six weeks to finish the task.

The story also describes specific failures by contractors, the CMS and the White House that led the linchpin of Obama’s signature domestic achievement to stumble out of the gate.

The CMS was “so uncoordinated,” Brill writes, that it created three separate war rooms to deal with the mess after Oct. 1.

There was also widespread confusion within the agency about how many users the site could handle in its initial days online, a fact that would have been clearer had officials created a technical “dashboard” to monitor site operations.

The White House, meanwhile, was “aloof” and disinterested in the “nitty-gritty” of launching, Brill writes. Officials apparently just accepted assurances from the CMS that all was well with the system.

The piece states, quoting McDonough, that Obama concluded each ObamaCare meeting by saying, “‘I want to remind the team that this only works if the technology works.'” 

“The problem,” Brill goes on, “was that no one in the meetings had any idea whether the technology worked, nor did the president and his chief of staff have the inclination to dig in and find out.”

Obama also never visited the triage teams that ultimately stabilized by December, the piece says.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Tags Denis McDonough Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Presidency of Barack Obama

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