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Friday, October 21, 2016

Sebelius To Senate Finance Committee On Troubled Obamacare Launch: ‘Delaying Is Not An Option’

Sebelius To Senate Finance Committee On Troubled Obamacare Launch: ‘Delaying Is Not An Option’

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in the hot seat again on Wednesday, this time to testify before Congress’ Senate Finance Committee.

Sebelius has been under fire since the problem-filled launch of the Affordable Care Act website, and testified last week before the Republican-controlled House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Back on Capitol Hill, Sebelius faced scrutiny from Republicans who are upset over the actual health care law itself, and from Democrats who are concerned about the troubled rollout of The hearing also addressed rising concerns over health care policy cancellations.

In his opening statements, Republican senator Orrin Hatch (UT) accused Sebelius of not being “honest” about the rollout, which he claims she had to have had “several indications” would be problematic.

“Put simply, there is a long track record of broken promises and untruthful answers to both this committee and the American people with respect to how this law would work and the impact it would have,” Hatch said.

“I hope that it will stop today. No more caveats. No more excuses. No more spin. Just give us the truth,” the senator urged.

Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) — who suggested that the implementation could be a “train wreck” months before the rollout — took a similar approach. Unlike many of his GOP counterparts who have asked for Sebelius’ resignation, however, he affirmed that Sebelius “needs to stay at Health and Human Services and help get the marketplaces working.”

Sebelius assured Hatch and Baucus that “expert” technicians are working around the clock to ensure the website functions properly for “most Americans” by the end of November.

Other significant moments included Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) demanding that Sebelius hold the contractors behind the website “legally responsible” and that she “burn their fingers,” and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) pushing Sebelius to admit that website “navigators” — who assist Americans shopping the exchanges and are not required to undergo background checks — could potentially be “convicted felons” with the capability to “acquire sensitive, personal information from an individual unbeknownst to them.” Cornyn also suggested that ACORN — which hasn’t existed for three years — could be involved.

Several senators also asked why, if even Sebelius admits that accessing the exchanges have proved a “miserably frustrating experience,” the federal government does not delay the implementation of the new health care law until the site is guaranteed to function properly.

Sebelius countered that delaying implementation would not “delay people’s cancer or diabetes or Parkinson’s.”

“For millions of Americans, delaying is not an option,” she added.

Photo: US Mission Geneva via Flickr

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  • sigrid28

    It’s my impression that Sebelius wasn’t asked once about whether insurance companies that stand to benefit from sales of policies via the health care marketplace created by the ACA could,nevertheless, be sabotaging the rollout, both within the website, by getting their parts of it moving at a glacial pace, and from without, by cancelling policies and blaming the ACA. Why didn’t members of congress raise this topic? For the same reason they go easy on big pharma: many members of congress are more loyal to insurance companies than they are to their constituents who cannot afford health care.

    • Sand_Cat

      More like more than ALL of the people who actually vote for them.

    • Dominick Vila

      I doubt the insurance industry, other than insurance agents who will be adversely affected by the ability of insurance companies dealing directly with the ACA exchanges, have anything to do with the website problems, but I would not put it past some ideologue sabotaging the website. The reason I don’t think insurance companies have anything to do with what is going on is because, with the exception of the uninsured, they are among the main beneficiaries of ACA. Contrary to the childish claims of socialism that dominate Republican discourse n this issue, the insurance industry helped write the ACA legislation, and its deployment represents a financial bonanza for them.

      • sigrid28

        Please, please, please let the self-interest of the insurers have led to their cooperation in the rollout of the ACA, as you propose. I thought the self-interest of Wall Street would stop the threat of defaulting on the debt ceiling three weeks ago, long before it did. So I am a little worried. I’m more worried about security of the ACA website with so much work going on–the perfect time for hackers to intervene. In the ACA’s favor stands the longing of so many Americans who need health insurance themselves or long for it to sustain the well-being of a sick or disabled family member. Their love and patience can outlast these initial delays, as these families have already overcome the many obstacles that stand in the way of obtaining the best care available for their loved ones.

        • Dominick Vila

          The Affordable Care Act will be deployed as scheduled, what remains to be see is whether or not the mandate is delayed as a result of the Federal website problems.
          The reason the GOP is frantic and insistent on delaying the ACA deployment until the end of 2014 is because they fear the implementation of a program that is bound to be well received and of great benefit to the American people. They will have a lot to explain, including to their own constituents, when those who get healthcare coverage, including preventive medical care for the first time in their lives or in many years, ask them what they were talking about when they called the brainchild of The Heritage Foundation an “obomination”, social Armageddon, a program that would destroy America, etc.
          The irony is that they would have benefitted from the deployment of this program had they focused their energies on facets of ACA that may be too expensive or inefficient. Instead, they pursued a strategy designed to malign and undermine the credibility of a man they hate, and they are likely to pay dearly for it.

    • docb

      Interesting, Sigrid. That play by Insurance Companies could be about profit and to eliminate the competition from the new groups. The established can hold on, knowing that their piece pie could be bigger if delayed. It was reported that several Big InCos had to rebid to be allowed in certain State exchanges..They were too high to be competitive.

      I did run across this a few days ago.

      I put nothing past the big corps.

      • sigrid28

        Thanks for the link. I have always thought that insurance companies drag their feet so long in paying a claim because each penny that is not paid out sits in their coffers gathering its little bit of interest each day–and that adds up. They are also the experts on throwing every possible obstacle in front of individuals or institutions waiting for them to pay out on claims, hoping to drive down claim payments by trying the patience of policy owners and providers to the limit–until they just stop trying to make the insurer cough up the payment. I haven’t read the ACA, but I sure hope some of those thousands of pages are devoted to inhibiting these practices. Finally, I think the number of states refusing to set up their own exchanges could have emboldened insurance companies to drag things out as they are expert at doing, with the hope od a return to the Wild West of health care delivery if the ACA cannot get off the ground. They should know better after the success of Medicare and Medicare Part D, but their highly paid executives are insulated by astronomical salaries and blinded, as they have always been, by greed.

        • docb

          Some of those rights/ practices are guaranteed by McCarren Ferguson in the anti trust protection of the 1930’s, sadly!

          PPACA did stop the obvious…pre-exsisting conditions, lifetime caps, canceling policies randomly for costs, etc but it is difficult to legislate against the latest or coming corporate sneaky behavior…They had their legal teams working on this the whole time it was being drafted.- with the help of the HC lobbyist, Liz Fowler, that Baucus hired. You might want to read some of Wendell Potters articles on this!

        • docb

          My PA just flagged this for me about the Insurance Co/ State games…

          It is a winding road!

    • CPAinNewYork

      Good job Sigrid. I too thought about this aspect of the problem: sabotage. I’m usually criticized for having a conspiratorial view of politicians, who I think are scum, by and large.

      So satisfying to find out that I’m not alone.

    • elw

      They cannot ask questions like that, they are all bought and paid for by those big corporations who own the companies that will be providing the insurance. If people really understood the roll of the health insurance in the writing of the ACA and the amount of money they have earned over the decades from Medicare and Medicaid and how it affect the kind of coverage they will get there would be a much bigger cry for a single payer system. It will remain that way until we get the money out of politics.

  • Dominick Vila

    The Federal website problems do not justify delaying the full deployment of the Affordable Care Act, if nothing else because there are other ways to open an account, join an exchange, and be eligible for ACA benefits. However, if the website problems continue, it may be prudent to delay the effective date of the ACA mandate by an identical length of time. That is, if it takes two months to correct the website software problems, the mandate should be delayed by two months.
    The reason the GOP wants to delay ACA until near the end of 2014 is because they hope t have control of both the House and the Senate after the midterm election, at which time the goal will have more to do with dismantling or defunding ACA.

  • collinnyo145

    my Aunty Addison got an
    awesome blue Mercedes M-Class ML63 AMG by working part-time online. published
    here J­a­m­2­0­.­ℂ­o­m

    • infadelicious

      by working online? wow! obviously Sebelius and the obama admin didn’t set up your computer………..;-)

  • infadelicious

    Yes, let’s get this party started!!! do not delay…….

  • CPAinNewYork

    All this blather is so familiar to anyone who has participated in a system development project.

    During the project, the sponsors of the project push the developers to complete the project so that the sponsors can look good. When that happens, testing is frequently cut short and the project goes “on stream.” Then the bugs in the system come to the fore and the system appears to be a disaster because it doesn’t work.

    This is when the developers get to work and fix the system. By this time the sponsors, who are embarrassed, have taken a hands off approach and are letting the developers do their work.

    Eventually, the system gets fixed and works fine. There ‘s nothing new in this. Pope Julius II harassed Michelangelo to complete the painting of the Sistine Chapel’s roof. Fortunately, Michelangelo proceeded at his own pace and the work was done right.

    When all is said and done, the primary blame must be placed on the politicians like Obama and Sibelius, who undoubtedly pushed the development team to the point where they said something like “Screw it, Give them what they want.”

    In this instance, it’s the politicians like Hatch, Nelson and Baucus who are looking to penalize the development team. That’s the easy target. Politicians like easy targets. That’s one reason why politicians screw things up, whether it’s Obamacare or our idiotic foreign policy in the Middle East.

  • elw

    Republican’s have got to stop making the solution for every problem in this Country the delaying or repeal of the ACA. Really, a website problem is justification of pouring more confusion and suffering on the millions of people who are in the process of signing up in state exchanges and through the many other portals available to them. They have use this excuse for shutting down the government, to use their tax paid for time in congress to pass over 40 bills to repeal or defund it at the expense of doing nothing else, they attach that demand to any bill that come their way and constantly use it as something that must be done before they do the job they are being paid to do. It just seems to me, that their lack of imagination, and narrow scoop of work is not worth the amount of money they are paid. You would think they would be embarrassed that their only accomplishments have been losing 24 million dollars in revenue and passing 42 bills that they knew would never become laws.

    • sigrid28

      Here we have individuals who seem to have evolved beyond shame. You’ve been too kind in your assessment of them, elw, or made a typo: the shutdown cost the American economy 24 billion dollars–and they are threatening to force another shutdown in December, our Christmas present. They’ve threatened to default on the debt again if it suits them. Meanwhile, the House has only sixteen days in session to iron out a budget.

      Lindsay Graham has demanded a whole re-assessment of Benghazi or all of the president’s appointments will be filibustered in the Senate, and I hear nothing about Senator Reid unleashing the nuclear option to see that President Obama gets his picks for important posts, one of them the head of the Fed.

      I’m wondering if Democrats in Congress have decided to just wait out these extreme measures inflicted by Republicans, concentrating on getting the ACA in operation and allowing the GOP to accumulate even more examples of obstruction to hold up before the American public–an American public that is getting very impatient and more and more identifying Republicans as the source of this obstructionism. Perhaps the dam will burst if voters take their frustration to the polls in the 2014 election. It’s kind of a scorched earth policy in the meantime. At least we do not fool ourselves: we are living in a war zone, and our role as Democrats is to remain united and hold the line. About the most we can do is get out the vote in 2014, and try to pry the obstructionists out of state legislatures and city councils. Voting and voicing our disapproval are about the only things we can do until we get these destructive ideologues out of office.

      It is little consolation, knowing that no amount of concessions to Republicans would work to move legislation along. We’ve already tried that, and it failed, despite the will of the majority in our democracy. The Tea Party wants to break the government to pieces, and moderate Republicans have no will to stop this destruction from within. If Democrats can gain a majority in the House and Senate, a great deal can be accomplished in a short period of time, including key appointments lasting up to ten years.

      • elw

        It was a typo, believe me I feel anything but kind towards the “shut down” Republicans. I do not believe that the Democrats can do much about the dysfunctional Republicans in Congress, they have picked their path and like all Radicals cannot change it. Besides if their own party cannot control them how could anyone else. Washington is a war zone and one that will destroy this Country unless the voters act and we do have that power to do so through our votes. I am planning to help get out the vote in the next election. In the meantime I just keep reminding myself of what happened to the far Right during the Clinton Administration when they lost badly in the election following the shut down and impeachment debacles and hope that response will be duplicated in 2014.