Who Will Take the Blame for HealthCare.gov's Failure to Launch?

Now that the dust has more or less settled around the embarrassingly glitchy launch of healthcare.gov, the White House may be ready to start pointing fingers.

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Now that the dust has more or less settled around the embarrassingly glitchy launch of healthcare.gov, the White House may be ready to start pointing fingers. Though the Obama Administration has not yet called out specifica individuals for the difficult rollout, a report in The New York Times notes that president Obama has not shied away from dismissing staffers in the past: 

“He’s not someone who screams and yells at staff or who blames staff externally,” said one former senior White House staff member who declined to be identified discussing Mr. Obama’s approach to personnel decisions. But the former aide said that the president showed a clear ability to tell some of his closest advisers that they were “not the right person for this job at this time.”

The Times listed a number of individuals who could likely take the fall, including: 

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Sebelius has been most publicly targeted for the website's troubles. Senate Republicans have called for her resignation, including Pat Roberts, who said she had exhibited "gross incompetence," and a number of others who signed a letter calling for her dismissal. Sebelius apologized for the site's problems when she took a very public flogging while giving testimony during an Obamacare hearing in November. 

Marilyn Tavenner, Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Tavenner also testified during the hearing in November, and encouraged "folks who have not been on the Web site in the last few days to please go on the Web site." Administration officials later told volunteers helping enroll users not to push visitors to the site soon after the November 30 fixes.

Mike Hash, Health and Human Services Office of Health Reform Senior Advisor. Hash briefed House Democrats on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and has continued briefing officials on the website's progress.

Michelle Snyder, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Chief Operating Officer. Snyder was implicated by Sebelius during the November hearing, after Representative Marsha Blackburn pressed her for names. However, when Blackburn stated, "Michelle Snyder is the one responsible for this debacle," Sebelius was quick to take the blame: "Excuse me, Congresswoman. Michelle Snyder is not responsible for the debacle. Hold me accountable for the debacle. I'm responsible."

Henry Chao, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Deputy Chief Information Officer. Chao said in November that the website was only 60 percent complete in a statement that fueled the right's rage. "It's not that it's not working," he said of the site, "It's still being developed and tested."

Jeanne Lambrew, White House Office of Health Reform Deputy Director. The Washington Post reported that in 2010, Larry Summers wrote a memo saying Lambrew "is not known for operational ability, knowledge of delivery systems, or facilitating widespread change," and called her team out for clashing with other departments. 

David Simas, Assistant to the President and Deputy Senior Advisor for Communications and Strategy. In September, a wrongfully optimistic Simas said someone skeptical of Obamacare would be convinced by the site's usability: "That young man will go online, fill out an application that will probably take him eight minutes, and the first thing he is going to see, depending on his income, is that he is getting money."

Todd Park, United States Chief Technology Officer. Park was not involved in the building of the current iteration of HealthCare.gov, but could be tasked with trying to make it fully functional.

Not mentioned in the Times article are CGI Federal staffers. That's the private company largely tasked with creating the site. They faced tight deadlines, but also reportedly has a history of squandering time and money on the government's tab.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.