CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner told two subordinates to “please delete” a forwarded email conversation between Tavenner and a group of White House advisers which took place days after the disastrous launch of healthcare.gov.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee published the October 5, 2013 email today. It contains a discussion Tavenner had with White House health care policy adviser Jeanne Lambrew and several other White House advisers including White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park. Tavenner forwarded the email chain to the CMS spokersperson and anothersubordinate saying “Please delete this email-but please see if we canwork on call script.” Another short sentence that followed this has been redacted.
The email chain shows Lambrew was concerned about a call script being used by customer service representatives helping people enroll in insurance plans. “There may be a problem with the CSR training or script,” she wrote. The phone system was seen as an important fallback in October when the government’s new health exchange website proved unable to enroll more than a handful of people.
It’s unclear why Tavenner wanted the email chain deleted. The House Energy and Commerce Committee sent Tavenner a letter asking why she told subordinates to delete the email and also whether she had directed that other emails be similarly deleted.
The letter also emphasizes the fact that the Committee has been requesting relevant documents, like this letter, from the administration since October 10, 2013. The email in question was part of a cache of documents CMS turned over the next day, 10 months after it was first requested.
Last week CMS also indicated that some documents may not be available at all, blaming the loss on the high volume of emails received. Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) said, “
Right on cue, when the going gets tough, the Obama administration proclaims it can’t find the documents.” “WhenHealthCare.gov was crashing, those in charge were hitting the deletebutton behind the scenes,” Upton added.