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U.S. lawmakers probing the botched rollout of a key part of the nation’s health-care reforms are turning their attention to Canada’s CGI Group Inc. (GIB.A-T).
Congressional investigators spoke with CGI officials during a briefing earlier this month, according to a letter released Tuesday by a powerful committee charged with overseeing the operations of the federal government.
A unit of the Montreal-based technology giant is the main contractor behind an online platform that allows Americans without health insurance to buy it. The system is a critical component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
Ever since its launch on October 1, the website – healthcare.gov – has been beset with problems. “There’s no sugar-coating it. The website has been too slow, people have been getting stuck during the application process,” said President Barack Obama on Monday. “Nobody’s more frustrated by that than I am.”
Now the mess is likely to be the subject of several Congressional probes as lawmakers seek to assign responsibility for the fiasco. That raises the spectre of CGI officials being called to testify before lawmakers about their role in the project.
One early focus of attention: the requirement that users create an account before they were able to shop for health insurance. That component failed to work properly and resulted in a huge logjam (the requirement to create an account was later dropped).
CGI officials told Congressional investigators that the decision to require users to create an account was made only a month before the website’s launch, according to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the committee, together with three other Republican lawmakers, sent a letter to top technology officials in the White House requesting all of their documents related to the IT systems involved in Obamacare, including records of communications and meetings with outside contractors like CGI.
The letter cited a mid-October briefing from CGI officials to suggest that the White House was deeply involved in the decision-making process surrounding the website.
The system was developed under the aegis of an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services. Department employees “constantly mentioned the ‘White House’ when discussing matters with CGI,” the letter asserted, and “would routinely state: ‘this is what the White House wants.’”
CGI officials told Congressional investigators that the ability to shop for health insurance without registering for an account was removed in late August or early September, the letter said.
A CGI spokesman did not respond immediately to a request for comment.