Two House Republicans charged Friday that a top Obamacare official told staff to delete an email on how to handle calls regarding the botched rollout of the healthcare law last fall.
House Energy and Commerce Committee
Chairman Fred Upton and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy accused Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, of directing staffers to delete the Oct. 5 email.
Upton, of Michigan, and Murphy, who represents Pennsylvania, released the email along with their letter to Tavenner.
The document was sent to Julie Bataille, CMS' communications chief, and it instructed staff on how to respond to questions from people who were having problems applying for Obamacare.
"Please delete this email but see if we can work on call script," Tavenner said at the start of the document.
The rollout of the Obamacare individual mandate was on Oct. 1, and it was marred with problems from the outset — primarily because of myriad difficulties Americans had with accessing and using the HealthCare.gov website. The site covers 36 states.
"We are regrouping over here on a process recommendation for discussion to ensure that we are all working off of the same understanding of how things work (like this) and what is going on to prevent confusion, lots of emails, and phone calls," Tavenner later said in the email.
"Right on cue, when the going gets tough, the Obama administration proclaims it can't find the documents," Upton said in a statement.
"Time and again, the self-proclaimed 'most transparent administration' has been anything but," they added. "And now we know that when HealthCare.gov was crashing, those in charge were hitting the delete button behind the scenes. What was the Obama administration trying to hide?"
Aaron Albright, a CMS spokesman, told Newsmax in a statement: "The administrator forwarded this email to a press staffer for her awareness and follow-up. She also copied her immediate staff, and the email was therefore preserved."
In their letter, the Republicans asked Tavenner to explain why she asked to have the email deleted and if that was the case with other documents.
They also noted that they had asked for all documents relating to the botched Obamacare rollout on Oct. 10, 2013. But last week, they noted, CMS officials told committee members that "copies of your email communications could have been lost."
The agency told National Archives officials the same thing, the Republicans noted.
The email Upton and Murphy released on Friday, however, came from documents the Department of Health and Human Services provided to the committee in response to its subpoena last October. CMS falls under that agency.
The Republicans charged that Tavenner's email — coming especially after CMS told committee members that some correspondence might be lost — raised further questions about whether the White House was concealing problems surrounding Obamacare's rollout.
"It is troubling enough that it takes 10 months to provide documents pertaining to the failed implementation of the president’s health law, but now we’re told that some emails may be lost and another was asked to be deleted," Murphy said in the statement.
"We were told that this nearly $1 billion website didn’t work because of volume, but our investigation proved that was not the case," he added. "Documents from the administration continue to prove that what the administration boasted to the public did not line up with what it was saying internally.
"We will continue to demand answers and hold the administration accountable for these failures."
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