Henry Chao, who supervised construction of the flawed U.S. health insurance website, was privately interviewed yesterday for more than nine hours by congressional investigators, two people with knowledge of the event said.
Chao, the deputy chief information officer for the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was questioned by staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by California Republican Darrell Issa, the people said. Such interviews often precede public hearings by Issa’s committee, which is investigating errors with the website, along with two other House panels.
Contractors who built the website, Healthcare.gov, have said Chao issued instructions late in the site’s development that contributed to software errors and website outages when it went live Oct. 1. The U.S. health secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, publicly apologized for the problems at an Oct. 30 congressional hearing and conceded the errors have prevented many Americans from enrolling in plans.
Chao’s current involvement in the project isn’t clear.
Spokespeople for Issa’s committee, Ali Ahmad and Caitlin Carroll, didn’t reply to e-mails and telephone messages for comment today. Joanne Peters and Jason Young, spokespeople for Sebelius, didn’t immediately reply to e-mails for comment on Chao.
President Obama appointed his incoming chief economic adviser, entrepeneur Jeffrey Zients, as a management consultant to the project on Oct. 22, and a UnitedHealth Group Inc. unit, Quality Software Services, was named lead contractor for repairs to the site that week as part of what the administration calls a “tech surge.”
CMS officials were asked on a conference call yesterday if the administration retained confidence in Chao, who is a career civil service employee, not a political appointee. He was previously the chief technology officer for CMS until August 2010, according to a profile on the agency’s website.
“We have confidence in the team that is in place working 24-7 to make improvements in this week to week,” Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the agency, said on the call.
She didn’t mention Chao.