Sebelius Explains How Obamacare Isn’t Like Tickle-Me Elmo

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Andy Meek
Nov. 1, 2013, 11:56 a.m.

MEM­PH­IS — Kath­leen Se­beli­us brushed off ques­tions Fri­day about re­ports say­ing only six people signed up for cov­er­age on the first day of the Obama­care web­site’s op­er­a­tion.

Speak­ing at a lib­rary in Mem­ph­is as part of an ef­fort to en­cour­age health­care sign ups in the city, Se­beli­us said she didn’t know where that fig­ure came from and that the gov­ern­ment doesn’t have “re­li­able en­roll­ment fig­ures yet.”

“I don’t pay a lot of at­ten­tion to these early re­ports, be­cause the sys­tem was flawed,” she said, adding that the flaws were partly be­cause of de­mand. “This is month one. We’re in foot­ball sea­son now, and this is the first quarter. A lot of folks want to de­clare game over. I don’t know where those fig­ures came from, but we’ll be giv­ing out com­pre­hens­ive fig­ures once a month.”

Those gov­ern­ment fig­ures, she said, would start com­ing out in a few weeks.

“There is nobody more frus­trated with the web­site than I am,” she said. “We should have done bet­ter.”

(Robert Giroux/Getty Image) Robert Giroux/Getty Images

She told com­munity lead­ers the pub­lic needs to be re­minded that the web­site does not func­tion like Amazon.com, where cus­tom­ers are used to log­ging on to buy a product “like a Tickle Me Elmo doll” be­fore someone else gets it. In this case, Se­beli­us said, the ser­vice is con­stant and doesn’t run out.

Rep. Steve Co­hen (D-Tenn.) who in­vited Se­beli­us to the city, bristled at some of the ques­tions she was asked, say­ing “Change is hard. Get over it. Barack Obama is pres­id­ent, and the Af­ford­able Care Act is the law.”

In the crowd was Re­pub­lic­an state Sen. Bri­an Kel­sey, the spon­sor of a bill to block Medi­caid ex­pan­sion in Ten­ness­ee sched­uled to be heard in Janu­ary. He tried to give Se­beli­us a copy of the book “Web­sites for Dum­mies,” which she ap­peared to hold briefly.

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