WH Chief Tech Officer Expressed Doubt Week Before Healthcare.gov Launch

WH Chief Tech Officer Expressed Doubt Week Before Healthcare.gov Launch

Henry Chao, the project manager for Healthcare.gov, wrote an email one week before the Oct. 1 launch of Healthcare.gov which indicates the White House was afraid the site might crash after launch.

Fox News reports the email was in reference to a meeting Chao had with Chief Technology Officer Todd Park and Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Marilyn Tavenner on September 24th, exactly a week before the new site launched. Chao wrote, “When Todd Park and Marilyn was [sic] here yesterday one of the thingsTodd conveyed was this fear the WH has about hc.gov being unavailable.”

Note that, according to Chao’s account of the meeting, CTO Park (pictured) was conveying a fear coming from the White House, not conveying his own fear. Asked about the email by Fox News, the White House once again claimedtheir concern was that glitches would arise as a result of too much traffic.

This is the same excuse which CTO Park himself offered the media a few days into the troubled rollout. On October 6th, Park told USA Today the site was designed to handle 60,000 users, and “These bugs were functions of volume…”

However, since Park made this claim, new reporting has revealed that one day before launchthe website was only able to handle 1,100 visitors. According to aninternal memo, once traffic exceed that figure, “response time gets toohigh.” As a result of this inability to handle even minimal traffic,only six people were able to enroll on launch day.

The remainder of Chao’s email was focused on how the media would respond if the website went down after launch. To amplify his concern, Chao attached a screenshot of the website with the following message: “The system is down at the moment. We’re working to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Please try again later.” Then, in reference to the image, Chao envisioned “major print and online publications taking screenshots of what is below and just ramping up the hyperbole about hc.gov not [being] functional.”

One obvious question that remains unanswered is why, if the White House was afraid this would happen, no one told the President. According to Sec. Sebelius, no one informed the President the site was in trouble. The President himself said last week that he was “not informed directly that the website would not be working.”

In any private industry, fears that a major product rollout could be in trouble would justify a top adviser giving a heads up to the CEO. Apparently, that is not how things work in the Obama White House. In fact, rather than discipline CTO Park (or anyone else) for failing to alert him of the problem, President Obama asked Park to begin working full time on a fix.