Obamacare Manager Missed Key Memo on Security Risks
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The Fiscal Times
November 12, 2013

One month before HealthCare.gov went live, a memo was circulated within the agency responsible for building it, revealing that the website central to Obamacare’s implementation contained “limitless” security flaws that could lead to identity theft and breaches of consumers’ health data.

The man in charge of the website, somehow, did not get the memo.

HealthCare.gov’s project manager, Henry Chao — who advised the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that the website was safe and ready to be launched on Oct. 1 —  told Congress he was kept in the dark about the security problems.

In closed-door testimony before a House oversight committee obtained by CBS News, Chao said he had never seen the security risk memo. The document was written on Sept. 3 by CMS’s chief information officer, Tony Trenkle, and described six security flaws, including two major threats that were redacted for security reasons.

Last week, Trenkle unexpectedly announced that he would be leaving the agency on Nov. 15. He did not give a reason and, on a conference call with reporters last week, CMS officials declined to comment on whether he had been asked to resign.

Related: Low Obamacare Enrollment More Proof of a ‘Disaster

Chao, who will testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday, blamed the confusion on a communication failure between government officials and contractors.

This is just the latest revelation concerning Obamacare’s troubled rollout that has raised questions about  the security of the website as well as the problems that have prevented many uninsured Americans from signing up for insurance online.

Republicans, including Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, have sought to make the security of consumers’ health data a key issue in an investigation of what went wrong with the website’s launch.

Related: The Hidden Flaw in the Obamacare Marketing Plan

The wide-ranging technical problems with the website have Democrats worried as well. Sen. Kay Hagen (D-NC) is circulating a draft letter calling for a full investigation into the botched rollout of President Obama’s signature health care system.

“These problems are simply unacceptable, and Americans deserve answers and swift solutions. Taxpayers are owed a full and transparent accounting of how the vendors contracted to build the site failed to launch it successfully,” Hagen said in the draft letter.

The letter asks the Government Accountability Office and the Health and Human Services Inspector General to report back to Congress on how much HealthCare.gov was originally estimated to cost and how much it will end up costing taxpayers. The letter also asks the watchdogs to clarify how contractors were originally paid and how much more they are receiving to try to repair the website.

Separately, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) has raised concerns about the large number of people who have not been able to purchase health insurance because of the website’s problems. She is expected to introduce a bill this week that would extend the open enrollment period by at least two months and delay the mandated fines for those who don’t have coverage.

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Washington Correspondent Brianna Ehley, based in D.C., covers Congress, government agencies and spending issues, health care, and tax and economic policy for The Fiscal Times.