Who made the decision to disable anonymous shopping option on HealthCare.gov?

October 24th, 2013

An important question, via WSJ:

Who made the decision to disable Healthcare.gov’s anonymous shopping feature? Rep. Tim Murphy, (R., Pa.) wants to know. CGI’s Campbell says she doesn’t know but thinks it may have been Henry Chao, deputy chief information officer of CMS.

Optum’s Slavitt says his company learned of the change about 10 days before the system went live on Oct. 1. “We don’t know who made the decision, when it was made or why it was made,” he said.

So ten days before the system launched, someone in HHS decided to turn off a feature that would have allowed people to see healthcare prices before signing up for an account. This would have contributed to serious sticker shock, as the prices displayed would be without the subsidies.

Though, the head of CGI insisted that the directions did not come from the White House:

Democrat Rep. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina asks CGI about an interview its representatives had last week with House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa in which they mentioned that CMS constantly mentioned the White House when talking about changes to Healthcare.gov and the health exchanges. (A WSJ story on that is here.)

CGI’s Campbell said that the comments made by CGI officials during that interview “may have been taken out of context” by the congressman’s staff. “The White House has not given us direct instruction,” she said.

And, another person working on the project said the decision to disable anonymous shopping may have caused the technical mess we have now.

Optum group executive vice president Andrew Slavitt said in his prepared testimonythat a decision to disable anonymous shopping may have caused problems with “the registration system that wouldn’t have occurred if consumers could ‘window shop’ anonymously.”