The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

I Take Responsibility - Sort Of

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


Fireworks flew today during the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s hearing as Members of Congress grilled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about the disastrous roll-out of Obamacare.  Much of it was a repeat from the hearing held on Oct 29 in the Ways and Means Committee with CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner as the witness.  In fact, Secretary Sebelius’s testimony and the testimony of CMS Administrator Tavenner were exactly the same.  Generally, nothing new was learned except the secretary knew the website was not ready for the October 1 opening day and that there are still major problems that must be fixed for the website to work correctly.  While the secretary insisted the website works, albeit just slowly, it turns out the Healthcare.gov website was down the entire hearing.

The secretary was questioned for several hours and took responsibility for the fiasco, pledging to have the website up and running by the end of November.  However, when members expressed irritation that President Obama and others in the administration continued to tell the American for three years that "if you like your insurance you can keep it" is turning out not to be true, the secretary blamed the insurance companies for the dropped coverage.

It is clear the website should have been tested for months before the roll-out and it was not done so.  It is also clear there seemed to be no one directly in charge of making sure the website worked from end to end although a few names of administration officials were mentioned during the hearing.  The administration has supposedly fixed the oversight problem by bringing on board Jeffrey Zients, former acting director at the Office of Management and Budget and soon to be the director of the National Economic Council.

Secretary Sebelius continued to provide no information on the number of people who have actually enrolled in a healthcare plan because the numbers cannot be trusted.  She promised the committee they would have the numbers by mid-November.

She also mentioned an issue that has been sited before in some news reports that is a serious problem and must be corrected quickly.  It is called an 834 transaction and it is a HIPAA compliant benefit enrollment and maintenance transaction.  What is does is electronically transmit enrollment and dis-enrollment information.  In this case, it is between the federal government and the various insurance companies.  You can read more about 834 transactions here.

The problem is the information being provided to the insurance companies is full of errors and must be manually corrected.  As long as enrollment is slow due to the constantly-crashing Obamacare website, the insurance companies can keep up with correcting the errors.  But if the website is fixed by the end of November enabling thousands to sign-up but continues to provide inaccurate information to insurance companies, it will be near impossible to manually correct the applications in a timely manner.  That could leave thousands of individuals without health insurance.

Again, the type of questioning that occurred depended on which side of the political aisle one sat.  Democrats provide letters from their constituents praising the health plans they were receiving and kept saying Obamacare was already working such as closing the donut hole in Medicare Part D; the Republicans provided just as many examples, if not more, of people upset with the fact that insurance they liked and could afford was being cancelled due to the Obamacare regulations.  Democrats continued to call for cooperation in fixing Obamacare, accusing the Republicans of wanting the law to collapse.  Republicans continued to list the problems they have with Obamacare such as rising costs, lack of security protections, job loss, and people losing their insurance plans and doctors even though they were promised the opposite.

This certainly isn’t the end for Sec. Sebelius appearing for Congress.  Chairman Fred Upton asked for another appearance toward the end of the year and she is due to testify before the Senate next week.

 

 

 

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