News

Lead author of Obamacare criticizes administration over rollout

Lead author of Obamacare criticizes administration over rollout

HEALTHCARE HEADACHES: U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies before a Senate Finance Committee hearing in October. Photo: Reuters

By David Morgan and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A senior Democratic senator who served as a lead author of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law criticized the administration on Wednesday for failing to alert lawmakers to problems that led to the program’s troubled rollout.

Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, who worried openly in April that the rollout could become “a train wreck” said he has been disappointed to hear administration officials say they didn’t see problems with the federal healthcare website HealthCare.gov coming.

“When we asked for updates on the marketplaces, the responses we got were totally unsatisfactory. We heard multiple times that everything was on track. We now know that was not the case,” he told U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at an oversight hearing.

But Baucus also sounded a conciliatory note, saying he wanted to avoid assigning blame. “That’s in the past,” Baucus said. “Now it’s time to move forward and figure out how to fix it.”

Under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, it is mandatory for everyone to have health insurance or pay a fine. Republicans oppose the plan on the grounds that it is an unwarranted expansion of the federal government.

The administration is working around-the-clock with the help of outside tech advisers to resolve problems that have plagued HealthCare.gov since it opened on October 1 and reduced an expected flood of new enrollees to a trickle.

Officials have promised to have the website that serves millions of consumers in 36 states working smoothly by the end of November. But continued problems and revelations about people facing health plan cancellations have led to growing anxiety among Democrats. Some, including Baucus, have said the enrollment period may have to be delayed.

But Sebelius told the lawmakers on Wednesday that there would be no further delay to the law’s implementation.

“Delay is not an option. We are still at the beginning of a six-month open enrollment that ends at the end of March, and there’s plenty of time to sign up for the new plans,” she said.

Wednesday’s hearing marked Sebelius’s second time in the congressional witness hot seat in as many weeks. Last week, before a House of Representative panel, she accepted responsibility for what she acknowledged as a debacle.

She quickly came under fire from Republicans on Wednesday.

Senator Orrin Hatch, the panel’s top Republican, blasted Sebelius for earlier assurances that the rollout would go smoothly and a “cavalier” administration attitude that had brought only “broken promises” to millions of uninsured Americans and those with coverage who are now seeing their plans canceled.

“More and more promises made at the time this law was passed are now crumbling under the weight of reality on a daily basis,” the Utah Republican said.

“While I am glad that you are accepting responsibility for this disastrous rollout, I would have preferred that you and the rest of the administration were honest with us to begin with.”

Recent Headlines

in Local Sports

WWU basketball teams in action this weekend

Fresh
western washington logo generic copy/wwu

Also, more awards for members of the WWU volleyball team and Track and Field and Cross Country teams.

in Local Sports

Portland State dismisses football coach Burton

Fresh
Portland State's head coach Nigel Burton calls to his players against Weber State during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Portland, Ore., Saturday Nov 2, 2013.

Burton played safety at the University of Washington from 1996-1998

in Sports

Lions C Raiola fined $10,000 by NFL

Fresh
Detroit Lions center Dominic Raiola (51) during player introductions before an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins at Ford Field in Detroit, Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014.

The play was on a third-and-9 from the Detroit 35 with 57 seconds remaining. He struck the Patriots' Zach Moore.

in Black Friday, Entertainment

‘TIS THE SEASON: Holiday specials airing this week

Frosty the Snowman

Here's a look at Christmas classics and new holiday favorites airing this weekend.

in Black Friday, Entertainment, National

Obama pardons ‘Cheese,’ America’s top turkey

turkeypardon

The President pardoned the official Thanksgiving turkey in a tradition that is truly American.