Rep. Issa adds tech companies to list of HealthCare.gov inquiries

Wednesday - 10/23/2013, 2:49pm EDT

A top House Republican lawmaker is expanding his inquiry into the problems of HealthCare.gov by asking some of the vendors who are rumored to be part of the administration's "tech surge" for more details on their involvement.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote letters to the CEOs of Verizon Enterprise Inc., Google, Microsoft, Oracle and Expedia yesterday asking if they were indeed helping the Department of Health and Human Services fix the Affordable Care Act portal, and if so, what role they were playing.

Issa's letter comes a day after he asked similar questions to the Office of Management and Budget about the role it had in overseeing the development of the website.

White House spokesman Jay Carney yesterday dismissed Issa's inquiry saying there is no need for "Monday morning quarterbacking."

"We cooperate with all legitimate congressional oversight," Carney said when asked if the White House would respond to the committee's request for a briefing and documents. "The Department of Health and Human Services has engaged with Congress numerous times and will continue to engage with Congress numerous times on these and other issues. I'm just saying that I think everybody here who wasn't born yesterday has seen questionable congressional oversight in the past. I'm not saying in regard to this issue, I'm just saying in the past."

Carney said the tech surge includes some of the Presidential Innovation Fellows as well as Jeff Zients, the former OMB deputy director for management, who are heading over to HHS on a short-term basis to help fix the site's problems.

But Issa said there are media reports that companies such as Microsoft or Verizon also are assisting, so he wants more details on their role.

Issa asked the companies to provide information by Oct. 25 on:

  • Whether they have been contacted by anyone in government to help with the technical problems of HealthCare.gov, and if so, describe the nature of the contacts and any problems brought to their attention.

  • Any communications or documents with HHS, the White House or anyone else about HealthCare.gov or the implementation of the Affordable Care Act after Oct. 1.

  • Any communications or documents with any company contracted to work on HealthCare.gov or the implementation of the Affordable Care Act since Oct. 1.

Issa isn't the only Republican trying to understand where and why the portal is flailing.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing Thursday on the ACA implementation featuring senior executives from CGI Federal, QSSI, Equifax and Serco.

"This hearing will focus on the failures and issues surrounding the implementation of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's (PPACA) health insurance exchanges," the committee's background notice stated.

Additionally, the House and Means Committee announced a hearing Oct. 29 looking at the ACA's implementation. Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is expected to testify.

"This hearing will examine the status of efforts by CMS, HHS and the Obama administration to identify the problems plaguing the launch of the exchanges and the specific plans to fix the design flaws," said the committee's background memo on the hearing. "The hearing will seek answers to why the exchanges are not working, whether the exchanges will be ready to fulfill all of their required functions and what steps are being taken to ensure that CMS and HHS will be able to accurately verify subsidy eligibility-prior to the distribution of premium tax credits and cost sharing subsidies."

HHS posted a blog post Wednesday from Secretary Kathleen Sebelius providing the status of the tech surge. The agency will continue to post regular updates and CMS press telebriefings on its website.

RELATED STORIES:

House Republicans press OMB for details on its oversight of HealthCare.gov

Builders of Obama's health website saw red flags