The response to the coronavirus crisis by Health and Human Services (HHS) has been hampered by technical mishaps and feuding within the department, Politico reported on Wednesday.
In an incident previously unreported, Politico revealed that as health department officials tried to work rapidly one Sunday last month to negotiate an emergency funding package to fight the outbreak, their email system crashed for most of the day, with some crucial messages delayed for up to 11 hours.
The problem turned out to be an email test carried out by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a branch of the health department, that had not been coordinated with the department. They apparently thought Sunday would be the best day to do the test, since it is usually a non-working day.
This turned out to be only the latest in a series of technical problems within HHS caused by CMS going back more than a year.
The latest episode, coming at such a crucial time while trying to deal with a major crisis, has exacerbated tensions already strained by fights between HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS head Seema Verma.
"It's the same problem, the same behavior, but at the exact wrong time," one official told Politico,
Four individuals with knowledge of the situation told Politico that the infighting continues within the department even as it confronts a major challenge such as the coronavirus.
CMS faced major criticism last year, when it presented to the public long-awaited changes to Medicare’s website intended to make it easier for senior citizens to choose the health plan most appropriate for them. But advocacy groups said the website had major glitches, was confusing and often led the elderly to pick health plans that were inappropriate.
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