Most Shared

Health Care Reform
text size

Obamacare: Memo reveals health care adviser warned W.H. was losing control 3 years ago

Updated: Monday, November 4 2013, 09:22 AM EST
WASHINGTON (CBS News) -- CBS News is learning the Obama administration knew of the risks associated with the Obamacare rollout well before last month.

Three years ago, a trusted Obama health care adviser warned the White House it was losing control of Obamacare. A memo obtained by CBS News said strong leadership was missing and the law's successful implementation was in jeopardy. The warnings were specific and dire -- and ignored.

David Cutler, who worked on the Obama 2008 campaign and was a valued outside health care consultant wrote this blunt memo to top White House economic adviser Larry Summers in May 2010: "I do not believe the relevant members of the administration understand the president's vision or have the capability to carry it out."

Cutler wrote no one was in charge who had any experience in complex business start-ups. He also worried basic regulations, technology and policy coordination would fail.

"You need to have people who have understanding of the political process, people who understand how to work within an administration and people who understand how to start and build a business, and unfortunately, they just didn't get all of those people together," Cutler said.

The White House dismissed these and other warnings. It relied on appointed bureaucrats and senior White House health care advisers. Fearful of constant attacks from congressional Republicans, the White House became secretive about the law's complexity and regulatory reach.

Cutler said: "It is frustrating any time you really want to see something succeed because you believe it's good for people, and it doesn't get off on the right foot."

One month after its launch, the federal health care website remains hobbled. Dan Pfeiffer, senior White House adviser, said Sunday: "The website failures are absolutely inexcusable, and we own that."

Some Democrats have proposed dramatic action, including Sen. Diane Feinstein, of Calif., who said on "Face the Nation" Sunday, "I said this direct to the president's chief of staff, that they ought to take down the website until it was right."

Republicans doubt White House promises to fix the health care site by month's end. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said on "Face the Nation: "They're trying to change a tire on a car going 70 miles an hour down the expressway."

Some Democrats, like Mass. Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, say the website troubles are actually a good thing because they force the president to go out and sell the law again to the country. The president will do just that Wednesday when he will travel to Dallas to visit an enrollment center and thank volunteers for signing people up.

© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Getty ImagesObamacare: Memo reveals health care adviser warned W.H. was losing control 3 years ago

Advertise with us!

Related Stories

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

The Obama administration achieved a major victory in late June when the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to uphold the nationwide subsidies for the Affordable Care Act. Open enrollment for 2015 is closed but people with special circumstances can still get covered on

Health Care National Stories
Capitol Hill reacts to SCOTUS ACA ruling

Reaction to SCOTUS Obamacare decision

Supreme Court upholds nationwide health care law subsidies

Obamacare Winners & Losers

Jonathan Gruber Made Millions Off Of Taxpayers

Gruber Opens Up The Pandora Box Of Obamacare

Hundreds Of Thousands Of People Set To Lose Healthcare Insurance

Electronic Health Records

Rising Medicare Costs

Court Decisions Leave Obamacare Hanging In The Balance

The Impact Of Obamacare On Women's Healthcare

When Will We Know What The Numbers Mean Behind Obamacare?

Small Businesses Size Up Taxes Under Affordable Care Act

Digging Through The Affordable Care Numbers

Deadline Is Over: Calculations Start

Marching To The Deadline

Cable Or Obamacare

Anti-Obamacare Ads

Another Delay In The Affordable Care Act

A New Wrinkle To The Affordable Care Act

Emergency Care On The Brink

An Early Cost Gauge Of Obamacare

Confusion Over ACA Still Reigns

The PR Campaign for Obamacare

Suing Over Healthcare

Obamacare in the Hands of President Obama

Paying for Obamacare

Health and Human Services Wastes Millions on Cancer Drug

A Chief Architect of Obamacare Gives Some Employees a Pass

Healthcare.Gov -- a Hackers Delight

How Healthy Are Insurance Co-Ops?

The Cost of the Affordable Care Act

Doubling Down On Affordable Care

Democrats Run For Cover

Enroll America Under Fire

The Republican Divide Over Healthcare

Congress Treated to the Royal Side of Obamacare

'Obamacare' Disappears From Talking Points and Promotion

Hacking Into

Changing the Rules to Obamacare

Healthcare Heartburn

Who Are The Healthcare Navigators?

Counting Obamacare Enrollees on One Hand

Is Sorry Enough?

"You Can Keep Your Healthcare Plan"

Other Looming Health Care Disasters

Heartbreaking Health Care Letters

The Few and Far Between

Millions of Americans Frustrated by Healthcare.Gov

When Did the White House Know Millions Would Lose Health Care Coverage?

Feds Promise to Fix the Affordable Care Website

Why is it so Difficult to Enroll for Healthcare Insurance?

Viewer Questions About the Affordable Care Act Asked and Answered

Sorting Out Fact from Fiction About Breast Cancer Screenings

What Changes are Coming to CHIP?

Confusion Over Health Care Law Still Persists

Doctor Visits

Health Care Spending

The Unexpected Costs of Health Care

Attempting to Derail Obamacare

Concerns Over the Cost of Healthcare

Rubio on Obamacare

Healthcare Exchanges

Defunding Obamacare

Healthcare Reform: A Doctor

Congress and Healthcare

No Change in Obamacare Opinions

Unions Oppose Obamacare

The Cost of Obamacare on Your Wallet

The Individual and Family cost of Healthcare under the new law

Questions and Answers About the Affordable Care Act

Whooping Cough Advisory

Lots of Questions About the Health Care Law

Healthcare Exchanges Continue to Generate Viewer Questions

Advertise with us!

Share your Health Care Reform questions and challenges with new health care laws.