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Issa Demands Details on HealthCare.gov Fix

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. // Evan Vucci/AP

A top House Republican critic of the Obama administration’s rocky HealthCare.gov rollout wants more information about how the government plans to fix the glitch-ridden online insurance exchange.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., sent letters to Microsoft, Google and three other major technology companies on Tuesday asking whether they had been recruited by the government for a “tech surge,” to repair the ailing site.

The surge, announced Sunday, recruited software experts from private companies and some government officials from outside the Health and Human Services Department to work “around the clock” to fix persistent software failures, including ones that prevent users from registering or signing into the online health insurance exchange.

The White House has declined to say how many people have registered through HealthCare.gov so far, but after the site’s first week, a private market research firm found less than 1 percent of people who visited the site had enrolled in an insurance plan. HealthCare.gov was envisioned as the main portal for uninsured people to enroll in new, private health insurance offerings to comply with President Obama’s landmark health care reform law.

In addition to Microsoft and Google, Issa sent letters to Verizon, Oracle and Expedia. The oversight chairman will likely reach out to other tech companies soon, he said.

The request is aimed at determining how the surge is being conducted and whether the government is following proper technology and procurement procedures, Issa said.

White House officials have declined to say which companies they’ve recruited to work on the ailing site. They’ve also declined to provide a definitive list of government employees recruited for the project though they’ve noted that U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, former Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients and several Presidential Innovation Fellows -- private sector entrepreneurs recruited for short-term government projects -- are among the recruits.

Issa and other Republican members of the oversight committee have charged that White House political interference during the building of HealthCare.gov may have crossed the line of proper government information technology management and contributed to the site’s rocky rollout. They plan to call Park and U.S. Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel to testify about the White House’s involvement in the day-to-day building of the site by the end of the month.

Committee Democrats have accused their Republican counterparts of mischaracterizing statements by the lead contractor on the project to create a false impression of wrongdoing by the White House. 

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