White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and various senior officials got an earful in a meeting today from Senate Democrats frustrated over the troubled rollout of Obamacare. The meeting also included CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner and Jeffrey Zients, who was appointed to oversee HealthCare.gov fixes.
While McDonough tried to reassure lawmakers that he’s taken charge of things and some Democrats tried to view things positively, there was clearly still concern.
From The Hill, ‘Agitated’ Dems vent on O-Care:
Democratic senators facing reelection in 2014 were some of the most vocal critics.
One lawmaker described Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) as visibly “agitated.”
Shaheen demanded to know why the rollout of HealthCare.gov had become so riddled with problems.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who has spent more of his career in the private sector than in government, also weighed in forcefully, according to the source.
“I am not happy with the website. That is a pretty common thought that we all feel,” Warner later told reporters.
“I think we ought to give them the time to make the improvements. But we need to see the improvements. We need to make this a much easier, consumer-friendly process,” he added.
Some lawmakers complained the administration has not done a good job of communicating what it’s doing to overhaul HealthCare.gov.
“[People] are unhappy. We want to see improvements. They’ve got to let people know what they’re doing, as they’re doing it,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
As the Huffington Post recently reported, many Senate Democrats are also worried about a 2014 deadline that could potentially have an impact only weeks before their November elections.
Senate Democrats facing reelection next year aren’t just fretting about a balky website and President Barack Obama’s misleading campaign statements on health care. Now they’ve begun worrying about another deadline a year away.
According to an Affordable Care Act timetable established by administration officials, early next October insurance companies will announce their new menu of health care plans for the ACA marketplaces — plans that may be more varied and numerous than those offered this year, but that almost certainly will come with higher prices.
The likely price hikes will hit the individual and small-business insurance markets only weeks before Election Day on Nov. 4, 2014.
“What genius came up with that timetable?” asked one key Democrat, who declined to be quoted by name because he is involved in private White House talks.
Some Democrats had already supported a proposal to extend the enrollment period, while Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has also joined with Republicans on calling for a delay of the individual mandate.
While all of this sentiment of course is at the height of the website rollout problems, it remains to be seen how things play out into next year.