Sebelius: 'Hold Me Accoutable for the Debacle' of Healthcare.gov
Upton said the public is “scared and frustrated” by Obamacare’s failings. He noted that administration officials expressed certainty that everything was on track before the launch.
“But something happened along the way – either those officials did not know how bad the situation was or they did not disclose it,” Upton said. “Sadly, here we are, now five weeks into enrollment, and the news seems to get worse by the day.”
Upton said the problems associated with Obamacare go beyond the website problem.
“Americans were assured their experience would be similar to other online transactions like purchasing a flight or ordering a pizza and that their sensitive personal information would be kept secure,” he said. “But after more than three years to prepare, malfunctions have become the norm and the administration has pivoted from saying they are ‘on track’ to setting a new target date of Nov. 30.”
Even more questions about the system were raised while Sebelius was appearing before the committee. The Washington Post and other media outlets came into possession of internal cabinet for Health and Human Services documents establishing that administration officials were aware of a website issue that placed the privacy of user data at risk. The memo warned that the system had not been sufficiently tested, “exposing a level of uncertainty that can be deemed high risk.”
Sebelius, however, testified that the personal data submitted by consumers is safe. The secretary said there was not a breach but a “theoretical problem” that was “immediately fixed.”
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) further criticized the administration, noting that “for four years the president told Americans that if they like the health insurance plan they have, they can keep it. The facts today show this is not the case.”
Blackburn said her office receives letters from constituents every day to report that they have been dropped by their health insurance carrier.
“Adding insult to injury, the website to buy one of the president’s plans doesn't even work,” she said. “For those that are able to get through, many are finding their premiums going up, not down. The botched rollout of this law simply confirms everyone's worst fears about government run healthcare. If the government can’t figure out how to run a website, how will they be able to figure out how to take care of us?”
Sebelius defended Obama, asserting that he didn’t mislead the public when he vowed that those who liked their health insurance could keep it. Any changes in health insurance policies were made to comply with new coverage requirements that take effect in January. Sebelius said consumers “must be offered new plans” if they are informed about any policy changes and may be eligible to receive federal financial assistance to meet any increased costs.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the committee’s ranking member, expressed confidence in Sebelius and the Affordable Care Act, urging the law’s foes to “stop hyperventilating.”
“The problems with HealthCare.gov are unfortunate and we should investigate them, but they will be fixed,” he said.
No lawmaker on Wednesday called for Sebelius to resign, although several have. The most recent is Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), ranking member on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
“Expecting this secretary to be able to fix in a few weeks what she has not been able to fix during the last three and one half years is unrealistic,” Alexander said. “It is throwing good money after bad.”
At some point, Alexander said, there has to be accountability.
“Taxpayers have spent $400 million to create exchanges that, after 3 ½ years, still don’t work,” he said. “No private sector chief executive officer would escape accountability after such a poor performance.”