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Thursday, October 27, 2016

By David G. Savage, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Sunday that health insurance exchanges that are now up and running across the country have given uninsured Americans a true choice of insurance plans with price comparisons.

“People have competitive choices and real information for the first time ever in this insurance market,” Sebelius said on NBC’s Meet The Press.

Before, she said, “individuals were really on their own” if they did not have insurance through an employer or the government. “If you were healthy and wealthy, you could get coverage,” she said, but not so if you were sick or struggling economically.

Sebelius, who resigned last week, conceded that her department had botched the rollout of the insurance exchanges at the beginning of October.

“If I had a magic wand, I’d go back to mid-September” and ask more probing questions, she said. “I thought I was getting the best information from the best experts,” but their confident prediction that the system was ready to go “was just flat-out wrong,” she said.

She described the following eight weeks as “a pretty dismal time” and the low point of her tenure as HHS chief. However, the computer glitches that plagued the program’s launch were subsequently resolved for the most part and enrollment numbers were up by December.

Sebelius said she decided early this year that the completion of the first open-enrollment cycle for the program was the best time for her to step down. She said she did not want to stay in the job until January 2017, when President Barack Obama’s second term will end, so the best option was to “leave with enough time that he would get a strong, competent leader” to head the department.

Obama last week nominated his White House budget director, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, to replace Sebelius.

AFP Photo/Karen Bleier

  • Allan Richardson

    The ACA (“Obamacare”) is the biggest step forward in health care since “Lyndoncare” (Medicare) in 1965. The ultimate prize for those who prefer both compassion and sanity is single payer (not single provider), but this is a lot better than what the insurance companies had “given” us before.

    Because we CLAIM to believe that human life is more sacred than money (I have my doubts if we REALLY believe it), it follows that saving lives and relieving suffering are the right thing to do EVEN IF they cost more. But the experience of other nations has shown that, properly managed, it will cost LESS to provide care to everyone than we are spending now to provide less effective care to most of us and NO effective care to millions. The key is “properly” managed, which does not mean being stingy or “rationing” care. That is what insurance companies already do … although the ACA puts a few restrictions on how much rationing they are allowed to do. To be “properly” managed means to deliver care more efficiently, and finance that care more efficiently, with less incentive for profitable inefficiency at every stage, from medical school costs (open more schools if necessary for the PUBLIC good) to hospital construction to malpractice coverage (impartial agencies to cover costs of patients harmed by INNOCENT mistakes, while PUNISHING criminal negligence, and with an incentive to determine truthfully which is which).

    The biggest “gap” left today affects the low income Americans forced to rely on the Medicaid expansion, which in half the states is not available, because a gerrymander-adjusted virtual “majority” of their fellow citizens have, through their political leaders, decided it is not ideologically compatible with their uncompassionate attitudes toward the least of them. Every one of their deaths is morally attributable to the citizens of their state that have voted to refuse them assistance, like the Priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

    If your conscience is clear, have a good day.

  • John Kenner

    We the people don’t want Obamacare.

    • jmprint


  • Dominick Vila

    One of the most unfortunate parts of this issue is that the problems encountered during the deployment of Obamacare involved the introduction of several clauses put in place to placate Republicans, to no avail. The inclusion of provisions to ensure Federal funds were not used to support abortion, provisions included to ensure illegal immigrants do not benefit from the ACA, provisions to ensure subsidies were given only to needy individuals and families within the parameters specified in the ACA, and other such measures introduced a level of technical complexity that transformed what should have been a relatively easy roll out into a nightmare. The inter-agencies verification requirements needed to comply with issues such as those mentioned above were responsible for the system problems experienced during deployment.
    Most importantly, let’s not forget that the problems experienced during rollout have absolutely nothing to do with the concept conceived by The Heritage Foundation, tested by Romneycare, and extended nationwide by President Obama.