Emails obtained by the Republican majority of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce reveal that the Obama administration knew this summer that the federal SHOP exchange would likely not be ready for launch on Oct. 1. However, delays were not announced for more than a month.

First, emails between the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Healthcare.gov’s lead contractor, CGI Federal, between July 26 and Aug. 13 showed that the administration agreed the SHOP exchange would not by ready until November. CMS did not announce that news until Sept. 26. Then, on Nov. 27, the administration announced an additional one-year delay of the online component to SHOP enrollment.

On Aug. 13, CGI’s VP for Consulting Mark Calem wrote to CMS Deputy Chief Information Officer Henry Chao with a planned SHOP rollout timeline which listed Nov. 15 as the day the “employee portal goes live.”

Chao responded, “Can we sign this with blood?” To which CGI’s Rich Martin wrote, “[W]e examined capacity and schedule and agree to these dates.”

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said these documents “tell a much, much different story than what officials testified to Congress. While it’s not clear if any ‘blood oath’ was taken, the president’s top lieutenants repeatedly looked us in the eye, insisting that they were ‘on track’ when they knew looming deadlines would be impossible to meet.”

In a prepared statement, CMS said that the emails do not reflect final decisions made by more senior CMS officials.

Rather, they are an exchange between “a small group of individuals involved in a broader decision-making process, and they reflect one piece of many conversations about managing deliverables and communicating expectations,” the agency said. “The final decision to delay SHOP enrollment functions was not made until mid-September, and CMS announced the delay once we had complete information about what functionality would be available for small business owners on Oct. 1.”

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