Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., on Tuesday invoked her own state's experience with health reform as evidence that there is still time for Obamacare implementation to succeed.
"What I can tell you all from [the Massachusetts] experience is that getting everyone into the health care system wasn't easy and it wasn't quick," the senator said in a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing Tuesday on the troubled rollout of HealthCare.gov. The committee is hearing testimony from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner on the status of improvements to the website.
President Obama spoke in Boston last week about the success of health care reform in Massachusetts under Mitt Romney's governorship. The Affordable Care Act has been compared to the state's system on a larger scale.
"Our enrollment period for subsidized insurance lasted almost a full year, yet it was only in the last month that 20 percent of the total pool got themselves enrolled," Warren said. "We learned in Massachusetts that when it comes to enrolling in health care, many wait until the end to get it done."
Tavenner agreed, saying that the administration always expected the greatest enrollment surges to come in mid-December and at the end of February. Those who more desperately need insurance are expected to be part of the December wave to get coverage beginning Jan. 1. Younger, healthier individuals — the group crucial to keeping overall premium rates low — are expected to enroll close to the March 31 deadline, to avoid the individual-mandate penalty.
"It's important to get the problems fixed in November," Tavenner said. "But yes, I think we have time."
Warren emphasized the importance of looking at the bigger picture in implementation. "The experience in Massachusetts suggests it might be prudent for us to take a deep breath about this," she said.
CORRECTION: This article previously quoted Sen. Warren as saying 25 percent of the Massachusetts pool enrolled in the last month of the enrollment period. She actually said 20 percent.