Sebelius Takes New Tack in Obamacare’s Latest Trial

Republicans are also hoping to change the conversation, but not in the way the White House wants.

Focused: Rep. Fred Upton oversees Tuesday's hearing.
National Journal
Sophie Novack
Dec. 11, 2013, 5:31 a.m.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4620) }}

As House Re­pub­lic­ans take aim at Obama­care on Wed­nes­day, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is try­ing to shift the fo­cus from the web­site and to­ward the more flat­ter­ing parts of the law it­self.

In a hear­ing be­fore the House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee, Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­ret­ary Kath­leen Se­beli­us em­phas­ized the law’s be­ne­fits in her open­ing state­ment and the pro­gress that has been made since Oct. 1.

Ahead of the hear­ing, Se­beli­us pos­ted to the HHS blog on Wed­nes­day morn­ing, out­lining the steps mov­ing for­ward as the ad­min­is­tra­tion tries to pre­vent a re­peat of the Health­ prob­lems. The post­ing pree­mp­ted some Re­pub­lic­an con­cerns by out­lining lar­ger steps that will be taken on fu­ture pro­jects.

Se­beli­us has asked In­spect­or Gen­er­al Dan Lev­in­son to re­view the de­vel­op­ment of the fed­er­al web­site; re­ques­ted that Cen­ters for Medi­care and Medi­caid Ser­vices Ad­min­is­trat­or Mar­ilyn Taven­ner ap­point a new CMS chief risk of­ficer; and said HHS will up­date and ex­pand CMS em­ploy­ee train­ing.

“While there is more work to be done, the team is op­er­at­ing with ve­lo­city and ef­fect­ive­ness that matches high per­form­ing private sec­tor or­gan­iz­a­tions,” she said in her writ­ten testi­mony. “The team will con­tin­ue to im­prove and en­hance the web­site in the weeks and months ahead.”

Com­mit­tee Re­pub­lic­ans, however, are still de­mand­ing an­swers over what went wrong in the run-up to the web­site’s launch, ac­cus­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of be­ing more in­ter­ested in cov­er­ing its tracks than in re­veal­ing its past mis­steps.

“No more false prom­ises,” Chair­man Fred Up­ton, R-Mich., said. “No more polit­ic­al games. It is time for trans­par­ency and the truth.”

Re­pub­lic­ans are will­ing to dis­cuss the fu­ture, but not on the terms Se­beli­us would like. The of­fice of House Speak­er John Boehner on Wed­nes­day re­leased a list of ques­tions for Se­beli­us, in­clud­ing one that sum­mar­izes the GOP’s health care mes­saging strategy in the weeks to come: “What will go wrong next?”

Mean­while, Demo­crats like rank­ing mem­ber Henry Wax­man and Rep. Frank Pal­lone of New Jer­sey em­phas­ized the im­prove­ments be­ing made, and they lamen­ted con­tin­ued Re­pub­lic­an at­tacks on the law. Both ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment that the hear­ing was not res­ched­uled to ac­com­mod­ate Nel­son Man­dela’s fu­ner­al.

Se­beli­us aims to put the rocky rol­lout be­hind the ad­min­is­tra­tion and to fo­cus on those gain­ing cov­er­age through the law.

“The Af­ford­able Care Act is more than a web­site,” Se­beli­us wrote in her open­ing state­ment.

What We're Following See More »
Rubio May Run for Reelection After All
1 hours ago
LGBT Amendment Sinks Energy and Water Approps
3 hours ago

The House voted down the otherwise uncontroversial Energy and Water appropriations bill Thursday after Democrats succeeded in attaching an amendment affirming LGBT job discrimination protections for military contractors. More than 40 Republicans supported the amendment, but when it came to vote on the bill, 130 Republicans joined all but six Democrats to sink the bill. Speaker Paul Ryan said Democrats voting against the bill after securing the amendment shows their intention was to scuttle the process. Democrats, however, blamed other so-called poison-pill amendments for their votes against the bill. Nonetheless, Ryan said he intends to continue the appropriations process.

UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
4 hours ago

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

70,000 Have Missed American Airlines Flights This Year
4 hours ago

"Airport screening delays have caused more than 70,000 American Airlines customers and 40,000 checked bags to miss their flights this year, an executive for the airline told a U.S. congressional subcommittee on Thursday. A shortage of staff and a surge in air travelers have created a nightmare scenario for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), with airport wait times in places like Chicago stretching beyond two hours."

Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
6 hours ago

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."