Todd Park, the second-ever US chief technology officer, is testifying today before a Congressional committee about the problems with health insurance website Healthcare.gov despite an effort to delay his appearance.
As CTO, Park primarily consults on technology policy and did not work on the development of Healthcare.gov. However, he has shifted his attention to fixing Healthcare.gov since the botched launch on October 1st. iI came out in testimony today that he's been working so hard he spent the first week of October sleeping on the floor in the office.
"The website is getting better each week."
"The website is getting better each week as we work to improve its performance, its stability, and its functionality," Park tells members of Congress. "As a result, more and more individuals are successfully creating accounts, logging in, and moving on to apply for coverage and shop for plans. We have much work still to do, but are making progress at a growing rate."
Park was called on to testify today by Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, along with six other witnesses including US chief information officer Steve VanRoekel and Henry Chao, the health department official who reportedly interfaced with the White House on the development of the site.
The administration argued that Park was needed to assist on the website repair, as Healthcare.gov is still suffering from errors and bugs that prevent people from completing applications. Any time taken out to prepare testimony and appear before Congress is time that could be spent fixing the site, health department officials argued.
Three former White House engineers set up a website, LetToddWork, to protest Park's testimony. "Now, instead of continuing to fix Healthcare.gov (a mess he did not make), Mr. Park has to spend his hours preparing for his testimony," the site says. "Let him do his job."
Time taken out to appear before Congress is time that could be spent fixing the site
However, Park was subpoenaed anyway. "If the committee wanted me to be here today and asked me to be here today, then I'm happy to be here today," Park said today, after acknowledging that he had tried to delay his testimony.
The first hour of today's hearing mostly retread over topics that have already been raised in previous Congressional hearings, including the capacity of the system, its failure of tests before launch, and the fact that only six people were able to sign up on the first day.
"Clearly on day one, the system was overwhelmed by volume," Park admitted, but said the site can now handle 20,000 to 25,000 simultaneous users, an indication of progress.
He also acknowledged that the website had problems that "frustrated Americans" and that there were "additional issues" beyond volume. However, he played only a small part in the development of the site, he said.
The administration has said it will fix the website by the end of November, although those efforts are reportedly behind.