Facing mounting criticism from both sides of the aisle, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will finally testify before Congress on Wednesday, October 30 about the major problems in the execution and implementation of Obamacare.
We talked to Gretchen Hamel, Executive Director of Public Notice about this.
As enrollment horror stories continue to dominate the news, here are seven questions we hope Secretary Sebelius will have to answer for this week.
1) How Did You Not Know About The Problems With The Website?
- Asked Whether Anyone Told Secretary Sebelius About The Problems With The Website, Officials Twice Declined To Answer: “But on a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials twice declined to answer questions about whether Kathleen Sebelius, Mr. Obama’s health secretary, knew about the problems.Asked if Marilyn Tavenner, the agency’s director, or anyone else had alerted Ms. Sebelius, an official cut off a reporter. ‘Next question,’ he said.” (Michael D. Shear & Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “In White House Pitches, Rosy View Of Health Care Site,” The New York Times,10/25/13)
- CNN: “HHS Chief: President Didn’t Know Of Obamacare Website Woes Beforehand.”“President Barack Obama didn’t know of problems with the Affordable Care Act’s website — despite insurance companies’ complaints and the site’s crashing during a test run — until after its now well-documented abysmal launch, the nation’s health chief told CNN on Tuesday. In an exclusive interview with Health and Human Services Secretary KathleenSebelius, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta asked when the President first learned about the considerable issues with the Obamacare website. Sebelius responded that it was in ‘the first couple of days’ after the site went live October 1. ‘But not before that?’ Gupta followed up. To which Sebelius replied, ‘No, sir.’” (Greg Botelho, “HHS Chief: President Didn’t Know Of ObamacareWebsite Woes Beforehand,” CNN, 10/23/13)
o White House Blindsided, Did Not Anticipate Challenges: “At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Thursday that administration officials ‘did not anticipate, we did not know of the kind of problems that would take place beginning on October 1 until October 1 came and we saw these challenges.’” (Tom Cohen, “Contractors blame government for Obamacare website woes,” CNN, 10/25/13)
2) Why Didn’t You Think You Needed A Backup Plan For The Exchanges?
- “Sebelius: Exchanges Will Be Ready On Time, No Need For Backup Plan” “The Health and Human Services Department will meet its central ObamaCare deadline and does not need a backup plan for delays, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Friday. … ‘No,’ Sebeliussaid when asked whether there’s a backup plan in case that deadline slips.” (Sam Baker, “Sebelius: Exchanges Will Be Ready On Time, No Need For Backup Plan,” The Hill, 4/12/13)
3) Why Did HHS Put Politics Ahead Of Getting The Websites Running Properly?
- Fearing Political Fallout, HHS Refused To Seek Outside Help: “Facing such intense opposition from congressional Republicans, the administration was in a bunker mentality as it built the enrollment system, one former administration official said. Officials feared that if they called on outsiders to help with the technical details of how to run a commerce website, those companies could be subpoenaed by Hill Republicans, the former aide said. So the task fell to trusted campaign tech experts.” (Kyle Cheney, Jason Millman and JenniferHaberkom, “Two Weeks In, ObamaCare Website Still Broken,” POLITICO, 10/16/13)
4) Don’t Americans Deserve To Know How Many People Are Currently Enrolled?
- “Obamacare Sign-Up Numbers Begin To Emerge, Show Slow Start Amid Website Problems.” “Elusive estimates of how many people actually were able to sign up forObamaCare since enrollment launched more than two weeks ago are finally starting to emerge — and, as expected, show a slow start amid widespread problems with the main federal website. The federal government has not yet released its own enrollment figures.But private firms and analysts have taken a crack at it. One private-sector analysis showed that, during the first week, less than 1 percent of those who entered the registration area actually enrolled.” (“Obamacare Sign-Up Numbers Begin To Emerge, Show Slow Start Amid Website Problems,” Fox News, 10/18/13)
5) Who Are The “Best And Brightest” HHS Is Bringing In To Fix The System?
- White House Says The “Best And Brightest” Are Assisting In Repairs, But So Far Hasn’t Named Them: “The White House also said a team of the ‘best and the brightest’ from Silicon Valley and elsewhere would assist in the repair, but it hasn’t named any of them. Contractors at the hearing said they couldn’t name any of those people either.” (Amy Schatz, “Botched Launch Of Health Site Blamed On Poor Coordination,” The Wall Street Journal, 10/25/13)
6) Why Was The Focus More On Public Relations Than Implementation?
- In Months Before Obamacare Rollout, Secretary Sebelius Focused On Marketing: “In the months before the Obamacare health insurance website debuted, Kathleen Sebeliusgave few hints that anything might be wrong. … With few concerns about the online exchange, the Health and Human Services secretary focused on a thing she does well: marketing.” (Alex Wayne, “Sebelius Super-Saleswoman Role Left Gap in Obamacare Site,” Bloomberg,10/24/13)
7) Who Is Responsible For The Botched Launch?
- Contractors Knew Of Problems, But Couldn’t Name Who Was Responsible: “The website’s botched launch has become the biggest threat to the success of President Barack Obama’s health law, just days after Democrats beat back a Republican bid to defund it. More Democrats said Thursday that penalties on those who lack health insurance—a linchpin of the law—should be delayed because of the difficulties many people have had in navigating the site. … Testing of the complete package took place in the final two weeks before the launch and revealed problems, contractors said. But they couldn’t name who in the government was responsible for addressing the problems or making key decisions.” (Amy Schatz, “Botched Launch Of Health Site Blamed On Poor Coordination,” The Wall Street Journal, 10/25/13)