WASHINGTON Oct 29 The Obama administration
appears to have passed up offers from Amazon and
Microsoft to help fix the federal government's troubled
healthcare enrollment website, according to documents released
on Tuesday by a Republican-led congressional investigating
An Oct. 7 inquiry from Amazon's subsidiary Amazon Web
Services Inc. was turned down by two senior officials at the
Department of Health and Human Services, which is overseeing
implementation of President Barack Obama's healthcare reform
law, according to copies of emails provided by the House of
Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Microsoft also contacted HHS and the White House with offers
of "technical expertise and assistance," but the company has not
provided any such services, a Microsoft representative said in
an Oct. 25 letter to the committee. The letter did not say
whether the administration had responded to Microsoft's offers.
Representative Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the
committee and a dogged critic of the Obama administration, last
week wrote to eight technology companies asking whether they had
been involved in what the administration had called a "tech
surge" aimed at fixing the website, Healthcare.gov.
The oversight committee released some of the companies'
Republicans have long been opposed to the 2010 Affordable
Care Act, known as "Obamacare," and have started their own
congressional probe into the role of the White House in the Oct.
1 rollout of the website. It is a critical tool of the reforms,
meant to help the uninsured get medical coverage, but it has
been riddled with snags.
The Obama administration said earlier this month it was
bringing in high-tech experts to sort out the website, but it
has given few details of who may be involved, other than to
announce last week that Quality Software Services Inc, or QSSI,
will serve as a general contractor to oversee repairs.
"We wrote to these companies because the administration said
there was a tech surge underway but was hazy on the details,"
said Caitlin Carroll, an Issa spokeswoman.
The responses "raise even more questions about who at HHS is
doing what to solve the problems" with the website, she said.
There was no immediate comment from HHS.
Issa has subpoenaed QSSI, which is a unit of health insurer
UnitedHealth Group and also has a technology contract
related to the website, for documents related to the project.
An Amazon representative wrote to the committee on Oct. 28
to describe the company's contacts with the administration about
Amazon sent the panel copies of emails, showing an employee
of Amazon Web Services Inc (AWS) emailed two HHS officials on
Oct. 7 saying, "I hear there are some challenges with
Healthcare.gov. Is there anything we can do to help?"
HHS' Chief Technology Officer Bryan Sivak replied to Amazon
by email on Oct. 8: "I wish there was. I actually wish there was
something I could do to help."
HHS' Chief Information Officer Frank Baitman replied to
Amazon on Oct. 7, "Thanks for the offer! Unfortunately, as you
know, I haven't been involved with Healthcare.gov. I'm still
trying to figure out how I can help, and may very well reach out
for assistance should the opportunity present itself."
Issa has written to Amazon, Microsoft, Google,
Verizon Enterprise Solutions, Oracle, Expedia
, Apple, and Kayak, Carroll said.