The ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee downplayed the mounting concerns about the efficacy and integrity of the Healthcare.gov website because he was able to log on while fiddling around on his mobile device during today’s hearing.
Contractors including CGI Federal appeared before the committee today to answer questions about the failure of the Obamacare exchange website, but no administration officials testified.
“We are disappointed that the system is not in place and running the way we envisioned. But the contractors have given us assurances that they think everything will be every day better to the point where the deadline can be met for people to sign up, choose a health care plan in time for it to go into effect January 1. The absolute deadline for that to happen is December 15th,” the top Democrat on the committee, Henry Waxman (Calif.), told reporters.
“I think we need to keep in mind that many people already have been able to get their health care plan under the exchange — under the marketplace — under the federal and state marketplaces. And that many people are anxious to get health insurance. And we ought to make sure that it’s working, and not take the approach that some of my colleagues have taken: ‘If it’s not working now, we ought to abolish the whole system.’ Of course, they’ve been against it from the very first day, and wanted to abolish it, and even close out the government to try to eliminate the Affordable Health Care plan,” he continued.
“But we got to stay with it and make sure it’s done. And I was encouraged by the testimony that they feel that they can beat this deadline — absolutely deadline in December 15th — and that people can try now. Because many people are getting through.”
Waxman noted that he went on his iPad during the hearing “and I was able to access healthcare.gov.”
“And I told them I wanted to look at the different plans. They asked where I lived, and I said it was in California, so they referred me to Covered California. And I went on that. And in the course of 10 minutes, I was looking at the various health plans that were available to my constituents,” he said.
His experience was brought up by other Democrats in defense of the exchanges.
“My healthcare aide went on the Virginia — to the National Exchange, who lives in Virginia last night. She was able to register. She was able to research plans,” Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) said during the hearing.
Outside the hearing, Waxman said, “I don’t want people to be discouraged.”
“If they can’t get through on the Internet web site, go to the call centers. Go the navigators. Go to the health clinics. Many of them can sign them up now. But if they — if they’ll keep trying, I feel encouraged that many of them will be able to get through,” he said.
Waxman also signaled that they’re going to steer accountability away from the White House, which reportedly requested last-minute changes that hid rate comparisons from non-registered users, toward the contractors and the Department of Health and Human Services.
“But the thing that I’m very clear about is that no one should be penalized for not getting a healthcare insurance plan if they couldn’t get on the web. And I think they’ll have enough time to do it by the deadline that, I think, is now at the end of March. But no one should be penalized if they weren’t able to do it because of the glitches in this — in this web program,” he said. “I don’t think we need to delay the requirement that individuals take their responsibility and get healthcare coverage. But if any individual was unable to get health care coverage, they shouldn’t be penalized, because it wasn’t their fault.”