The emails show the administration knew enough to put a hold on the launch, but didn't.
The emails showed HealthCare.gov's tests could not consistently handle 500 simultaneous users at once. 2,000 users over a three-day period failed the tests.
"I DO NOT WANT A REPEAT OF WHAT HAPPENED NEAR THE END OF DECEMBER 2005 WHERE MEDICARE.GOV HAD A MELTDOWN," Henry Chao, website project manager, wrote to his team and contractors in an urgent message on September 26.
Chao's e-mail referred to the disastrous launch of the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. Many seniors could not initially gain access to the website.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which discovered the emails, demonstrate the depths of the Obamacare website's problems, and run contrary to Obama's statements that his administration would not have launched the site had it known how badly it would perform.
"What we are learning is that the administration went out of its way to hide the chaos behind the scenes," said Fred Upton, chairman of the House energy and commerce panel.
The emails indicate that behind the scenes, website officials were raising numerous concerns. For example, on September 26, Chao said the site had to handle at least 10,000 or more simultaneous users. But after three days of testing, results showed the system flopped at levels well below that.
The next day (September 27), an administrator said the system was failing because of issues like defective code.
"We have not been successful in moving beyond 500 concurrent users filling applications" he said. "We must give ourselves the ability to work through these tuning issues."
By September 30 - the day before launch - another official reported the website still wasn't ready; it was running very slowly at low test levels of 1,100 to 1,200 concurrent users, and a part of the website allowing the user to compare plans had not yet been tested.
"Our goal is to hit 10,000 concurrent users at first, and then keep shooting for the 50,000 concurrency limits," the official said.
But as many as 250,000 users at a time visited the site at launch, far surpassing the site's limits.