The House’s lead investigator on Wednesday told President Obama’s top health official to revise “false and misleading” testimony before Congress about known security risks to Obamacare’s federal marketplace before its October rollout.
Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, accused Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a 14-page letter of ignoring red flags raised by agency officials and a private contractor before telling Republican lawmakers that no one advised her to delay the system’s launch because of security-related concerns.
Mr. Issa said the secretary should correct the record or face consequences.
“Witnesses who purposely give false or misleading testimony during a congressional hearing may be subject to criminal liability under [the law], which prohibits ‘knowingly and willfully’ making materially false statements to Congress,” Mr. Issa wrote. “With that in mind, I write to request that you correct the record and to implore you to be truthful with the American public about matters related to ObamaCare going forward.”
Administration officials have assured Congress that the federal Obamacare portal is safe to use and has not been hacked. The website, HealthCare.gov, suffered from web glitches in its early weeks of implementation before a turnaround by December, so Mrs. Sebelius was called before Congress to explain the law’s struggles.
Despite her assurances, House Republicans are not satisfied that HealthCare.gov is secure and will seek greater oversight of the system.
The GOP majority plans to hold votes this week on bills that would require the government to prepare weekly reports on exchange activity, such as enrollment data, and to notify people within two business days if their personal data has been breached on the web-based markets.
“We’re going to pass these bills. I’m hoping that the Senate will take up these bills,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, told reporters Wednesday.
In his letter, Mr. Issa highlighted three of Mrs. Sebelius‘ statements to congressional committees over the fall.
He said each piece of testimony contrasted assertions by MITRE — a contractor hired to assess the portal’s security — and by Teresa Fryer, the chief information security officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
“Did any senior department official predict serious problems? And did any senior department officials advise delaying the rollout of the exchanges or parts of the exchanges on Oct. 1?” Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican, asked Mrs. Sebelius on Oct. 30 before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
“I can tell you that no senior official reporting to me ever advised me that we should delay,” Mrs. Sebelius told him.
Mrs. Sebelius told another lawmaker that MITRE “did not raise flags about going ahead, and the mitigation strategy was put in place to make sure that we had a temporary authority to operate in place while the mitigation was going on, and then a permanent authority to operate will be signed.”
And on Nov. 6, she told Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican and ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, that no one suggested that potential security risk outweighed the need to move forward with the system’s Oct. launch.
Mr. Issa said Mrs. Sebelius‘ testimony did not jibe with information his committee has collected in recent months, as it continues to press the administration over its stumbles in rolling out the federal Obamacare portal. He said Ms. Fryer, in particular, pointed out risks to the agency in late September and then described her concerns in detail during a Dec. 17 interview with the committee.