The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on October 24th to address the issues surrounding the health care law’s rollout. The committee sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking that she appear before the committee to respond to inquiries and address her pre-launch comments in which she said the program was on track to launch on October 1st.
Not surprisingly, HHS has told majority staff that Sebelius would not attend the hearing and has so far not made other HHS officials available for the hearing.
From the Energy and Commerce committee’s website:
The House Energy and Commerce Committee today announced a full committee hearing – PPACA Implementation Failures: Didn’t Know or Didn’t Disclose? – to examine the health care law’s troubled rollout on Thursday, October 24 in room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Thus far, the administration has rejected the committee’s invitation to participate and publicly answer questions. Committee leaders sent a letter to Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting the administration reconsider its participation. The letter was signed by Full Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Chairman Emeritus Joe Barton (R-TX), Full Committee Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA), and Health and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Vice Chairman Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX).
The administration and the companies involved with implementation repeatedly assured the committee that everything was “on track” for October 1; however, the first two and a half weeks of open enrollment have been defined by significant “glitches” that have prevented Americans from being able to even use the system.
“It’s well past time for the administration to be straight and transparent with the American people. Top administration officials repeatedly testified everything was on track, but the broad technological failures reveal that was not the case,” said Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “Either the administration was not ready for launch, or it was not up to the job.”
As many others have noticed, Sebelius had no problem taking to a friendly outlet like the Daily Show to offer spin and nothing of substance in the way of answers about the ongoing website and state exchange problems. Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) called Secretary Sebelius’ rebuff “wholly unacceptable.”
Sebelius recently appeared on the cable-television comedy program, “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” for an interview that focused on the website’s problems.
But HHS and the White House have largely declined to disclose information about the problems plaguing the federal marketplace’s information technology system, which cost nearly $400 million to build, according to a report by the watchdog Government Accountability Office.
“This is wholly unacceptable. Secretary Sebelius had time for Jon Stewart, and we expect her to have time for Congress,” Upton said.
Meanwhile, among a list of growing problems and new discoveries, insurers are still getting incorrect data, many still can’t access the system, and some are even getting messages telling them they cannot pick a plan right now and to call a number “to find out how to pick your plan if the Marketplace has not contacted you by the middle of December 2013.”
But hey, according to Obama’s Chief Technology Officer as recently as Wednesday evening, “glitches happen” and the site was just overwhelmed.
Honest answers don’t seem to be forthcoming anytime soon. At least not without FOIAs.
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