Health Officials Knew Small Business Exchange Wouldn't Be Ready

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Friday, 06 Dec 2013 06:20 PM

By Cathy Burke

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House Republicans Friday released internal emails showing federal health officials knew in August the Obamacare small business exchange wouldn’t be ready on the Oct. 1 launch day, The Hill reported.

Documents show the officials thought a one-month delay of the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, would be needed weeks before it was announced in September.

GOP lawmakers said the administration misled the public in light of a second delay, announced last month, that pushed the launch of SHOP back until November of 2014.

"As the paper trail broadens, we see more and more evidence that the administration was fully aware its signature health care law was not ready for prime time," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, (R-Mich).

"The documents we are now reviewing tell a much, much different story than what officials testified to Congress."

The communications from July 26 and Aug. 13 show a growing awareness at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that CGI Federal, the private contractor in charge of SHOP, wouldn’t deliver on time.

They also reveal confusion among federal health officials about the status of CGI’s work and rollout plans.

Leaders at CGI promised Aug. 13 the program's main components would be ready Nov. 1 and 15, requiring CMS to announce a delay of one month and six weeks, respectively, The Hill reported. A top CMS official replied: "Can we sign this [timeline] with blood?"

Another official noted Chiquita Brooks-Lasure, a deputy policy director at CMS, had testified before the House Small Business Committee the SHOP functions would go live Oct. 1.

Federal officials also expressed concern about launching the program's two components at different times, arguing it would create confusion for users.

A spokeswoman at CMS said the emails reflect discussions among lower-level officials who didn’t make the final call about delaying the SHOP site.

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