Marilyn Tavenner Gets Off Easy as Lawmakers Yell at Each Other During Obamacare Hearing

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WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 1: House-Senate Conference Committee Chairman, Rep. Dave Camp, (R-MI) listens to U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) during a committee meeting to discuss the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act on Capitol Hill February 1, 2012 in Washington, DC. The payroll tax cut legislation, which is set to expire this month, is the conduit for a provision that will allow public transit riders to put away more pre-tax money for commuting costs.
National Journal
Sophie Novack
Oct. 29, 2013, 9:25 a.m.

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Par­tis­an fight­ing over Obama­care at a con­gres­sion­al hear­ing Tues­day grew so fierce at times that the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Medi­care chief was of­ten left to watch the drama rather than give testi­mony.

Rep. Sander Lev­in’s open­ing state­ment set the tone for the House Ways and Means hear­ing with Mar­ilyn Taven­ner, the ad­min­is­trat­or of the Cen­ters for Medi­care and Medi­caid Ser­vices.

“Demo­crats want to make the Af­ford­able Care Act work. Con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans don’t,” said Lev­in, D-Mich.

Ar­gu­ments were taken to ex­tremes on both ends, with Demo­crats fiercely de­fend­ing the health care re­form and Re­pub­lic­ans at­tack­ing its prob­lem-plagued web­site as rep­res­ent­at­ive of lar­ger troubles with the law.

“While the web­site can even­tu­ally be fixed, the wide­spread prob­lems with Obama­care can­not,” said Chair­man Dave Camp, R-Mich.

Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers of the com­mit­tee fo­cused on premi­um costs, en­roll­ment num­bers, and those who have had their ex­ist­ing in­sur­ance plans can­celed. Costs were dis­cussed as much as the prob­lem­at­ic web­site launch. Demo­crats de­fen­ded the law, cit­ing the im­port­ance of af­ford­able, high-qual­ity health care.

“I hap­pen to be­lieve that health care is a right and not a priv­ilege, that it’s not just for the for­tu­nate few but all cit­izens of Amer­ica,” said Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. “There has been a de­lib­er­ate and sys­tem­at­ic at­tempt on the part of the ma­jor­ity in the House and the minor­ity in the Sen­ate to make it im­possible for all Amer­ic­ans to re­ceive qual­ity health care. And some of us will not stand for it.”

With al­lot­ted time re­peatedly run­ning out, and law­makers pon­ti­fic­at­ing rather than al­low­ing Taven­ner to speak, there was little back and forth on the web­site launch, con­tract­ors, or test­ing.

That may mean that Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­ret­ary Kath­leen Se­beli­us will have more to an­swer when she faces Con­gress on Wed­nes­day.

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