Did Sebelius Have the Authority to Delay Obamacare Website Launch?

CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner says she doesn’t know the answer.

HHS Secretary Sebelius
National Journal
Sophie Novack
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Sophie Novack
Nov. 5, 2013, 8:51 a.m.

Cen­ters for Medi­care and Medi­caid Ser­vices Ad­min­is­trat­or Mar­ilyn Taven­ner said Tues­day that she did not know wheth­er Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­ret­ary Kath­leen Se­beli­us had the au­thor­ity to delay the Oct. 1 launch of Health­Care.gov.

The CMS of­fi­cial test­i­fied be­fore the Sen­ate Health, Edu­ca­tion, Labor, and Pen­sions com­mit­tee on the rocky rol­lout of the Obama­care en­roll­ment web­site.  

Taven­ner’s state­ment came as Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., ques­tioned her on the de­cision to go ahead with the sched­uled launch date des­pite in­dic­a­tions that there were se­cur­ity is­sues with the site.

Burr brought up a CMS memo dated Sept. 27 that said in­suf­fi­cient test­ing “ex­posed a level of un­cer­tainty that can be deemed as a high risk,” just a few days be­fore the site went live. The memo — signed by Taven­ner — gran­ted au­thor­ity to pro­ceed with the web­site launch.

“I think in this case, be­cause of the vis­ib­il­ity of the ex­change, the chief in­form­a­tion of­ficer wanted to make me aware of it, and I agreed to sign it, with their re­com­mend­a­tion to pro­ceed,” Taven­ner said, ex­plain­ing that no one else, in­clud­ing Se­beli­us, re­viewed that de­cision.

“My ex­pect­a­tion was that the site would work, but have the cus­tom­ary glitches of any new site,” she said of the Health­Care.gov launch.

Law­makers have tried to get to the bot­tom of what ex­actly was known about the ex­tent of the web­site’s prob­lems pri­or to Oct. 1, and who made the ul­ti­mate de­cision to go ahead with the sched­uled launch date des­pite in­dic­a­tions of trouble.

HHS did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment on wheth­er Se­beli­us had that au­thor­ity.

Here today’s ex­change:

Burr: “Sec­ret­ary Se­beli­us said last week that the im­ple­ment­a­tion took place on Oct. 1 be­cause that was the law. Now let me ask you: I’ve read the act sev­er­al times. My in­ter­pret­a­tion is that Sec­ret­ary Se­beli­us had the au­thor­ity not to ex­ecute that on Oct. 1 — and clearly my in­ter­pret­a­tion — if you had not signed the au­thor­ity to op­er­ate the web­site, it would not have stood up on Oct. 1. Are my two state­ments ac­cur­ate?”

Taven­ner: “I don’t know that your state­ments are ac­cur­ate. The law says that Jan. 1 is when in­di­vidu­als have to have cov­er­age. We put a reg­u­la­tion in place that said Oct. 1 would be the day we would start, so that people would have time to sign up. We did — we de­clared the six-month en­roll­ment win­dow.”

Burr: “Do you think that the sec­ret­ary had the au­thor­ity to waive the Oct. 1 reg­u­la­tion?”

Taven­ner: “I do not know the an­swer to that ques­tion.”

What We're Following See More »
GAVE COMMITTEE A “ROAD MAP” OF NAMES, PLACES, AND LEADS
Fusion GPS Founder Alleges Trump-Mafia Connection
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The House Intelligence Committee voted to release the November 14 testimony of Glenn Simpson, the man at Fusion GPS who oversaw the creation of the now infamous Trump-Russia dossier. Simpson's testimony includes a number of startling claims, including that Russia infiltrated conservative political groups prior to the election, and that Trump had "long time associations" with the Italian Mafia," and that he "gradually during the nineties became associated with Russian mafia figures." Simpson also testified that Trump called off a post-election meeting with Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank and a longtime member of the NRA, currently under investigation by the FBI for money laundering. Simpson said that the discoveries were so alarming that he felt compelled to go to the authorities. The full text of the transcript can be read here.

Source:
RYAN SAYS HOUSE WILL VOTE TONIGHT
Senate Dems Say They Can Block Spending Measure
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he has the votes to pass a short-term spending bill tonight, but "Senate Democrats said they're confident they have the votes to block the stop-gap spending bill that the House is taking up, according to two Democratic senators and a senior party aide. And top Senate Republicans are openly worried about the situation as they struggle to keep their own members in the fold."

Source:
BILL HAS BIPARTISAN SUPPORT
House Introduces Sexual Harassment Overhaul
6 hours ago
THE LATEST

The bipartisan legislation, known as the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act, means taxpayers will "no longer foot the bill" for sexual harassment settlements involving members of Congress." The legislation "would require members to pay such settlements themselves." It also reforms the "cumbersome and degrading" complaint process by giving victims "more rights and resources," and by simplifying and clarifying the complaint process. The legislation is the first major transformation of the sexual harassment complaint system since it was created in 1995.

Source:
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS IN SUSPICIOUS CHECKS FLAGGED
Mueller’s Team Scrutinizing Russian Embassy Transactions
7 hours ago
THE LATEST
PRO-TRUMP SPENDING COULD VIOLATE FECA
FBI Investigating Potential Russian Donations to NRA
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency." Investigators have focused on Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank "who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA." The solicitation or use of foreign funds is illegal in U.S. elections under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) by either lobbying groups or political campaigns. The NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login