The information-technology officials testifying at a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing Wednesday were reserved in their confidence that the Obamacare federal exchange website would in fact be repaired by the end of November.
“The goal that has been laid out is for the site not to be perfect, but for the vast majority to be able to use it,” White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park said at the hearing. “It’s a goal we’re gunning for, and we’re working very hard get there.”
The administration had set the end of November as the goal to have HealthCare.gov running smoothly for the vast majority of users. Repairs are being made around the clock, but confidence may be dwindling for how fully functional the site will be.
An official told The Washington Post that persistent problems mean that the site is unlikely to be fully functional by Nov. 30, though the White House maintains the goal is still achievable.
Time is running short for both consumers and insurers to figure out their coverage options. The deadline to enroll for coverage that is effective Jan. 1 is Dec. 15.
Cancellation letters from insurance companies are adding extra strain to the situation. If individuals whose plans are canceled are not able to enroll in new coverage by mid-December, they will be uninsured until they are able to sign up.
Amid the growing pressure, even Democratic lawmakers are increasingly supporting legislation that would continue canceled policies at least another year.
At the House hearing, Reps. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., addressed the coverage gap that could occur if the website is not fixed soon.
“We’ve been fighting a long time in New Mexico to find ways to access affordable health care. I need, we need, our constituents need the website to work,” said Grisham, who noted that nearly 25 percent of people in her state are uninsured. “The end of November leaves very little room for error. I know it’s not easy, but I want to make sure for the record that there’s real urgency here.”
Asked whether he felt that same urgency, Park answered, “Absolutely.”
Yet when asked repeatedly by members of the committee whether he could be certain the site would be functioning by Nov. 30, Park avoided making any promises. “The team is working really hard to hit that goal, and that’s what I’m able to say right now,” he said.
“As a former Web developer that’s what I was telling clients when we were going to miss a deadline,” remarked Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas.
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The Michael Flynn story is not going away for the White House as it tries to refocus its attention. The White House has denied requests from the House Oversight Committee for information and documents regarding payments that the former nationals security adviser received from Russian state television station RT and Russian firms. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking members Elijah Cummings also said that Flynn failed to report these payments on his security clearance application. White House legislative director Marc Short argued that the documents request are either not in the possession of the White House or contain sensitive information he believes are not applicable to the committee's stated investigation.
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