Time report: Obama weighed shutting down HealthCare.gov during rollout

President Obama considered shutting down the HealthCare.gov website and starting over during its rollout, Time magazine reports in its new cover story.

The administration was "pretty desperate," according to Time contributor Steven Brill, who reported the story. "Two weeks into the launch, as the government shutdown ended, they knew all the attention was now going to be focused this website, which just wasn't working," he said. "So the president ordered his chief of staff to have a team come in and decide whether they should scrap the whole thing and start over or whether they could fix it."

The president had "no information" in the first two weeks after the rollout, Brill said. "At these meetings, they literally - they themselves - didn't know if the site was up, except by taking out their own laptops and trying to go on it," he said.

Brill continued, "They all were told by the agency, the Department of Health and Human Services people, that everything was fine, and they believed them because the people who were doing the technology were afraid to tell the White House that this thing's not going to work.

"Now, in a situation like that, if you're running a business, or if you're running a government, you have to have someone who is willing, you know, to dig down and make sure that those assurances are correct because, you know, there's going to be a day of reckoning," Brill said. "And the day of reckoning was Oct. 1."

In addition to reporting the implementation of the health care law, Brill reports on the massive effort to fix the website's issues. A group of people who had worked on the technology for the president's campaign came in to address the broken site, working through Thanksgiving up to Christmas Eve.

"These were relatively young, modest people," Brill said. "The hardest part of the reporting was getting them individually to take any kind of responsibility for the good work they did. They kept saying, 'This is a team. We don't want to be written about. We just like to fix things.'"

Brill writes in his report, "It is ... a story of an Obama administration obsessed with health care reform policy but above the nitty-gritty of implementing it."

Asked about that piece of reporting, Brill said, "The people in the White House, at least for this bill, which is what my reporting was about, were very preoccupied by the policy decisions, the regulations they were writing and not preoccupied by, you know, the nitty-gritty of actually implementing it. And government is implementation."

Brill added, "The plumbing and the electricity now works in the house, and now we get to see whether we like living in the house. Now the law will be given a chance to work."

The new issue of Time magazine goes on newsstands Friday.

  • Amanda Cochran

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