Top Administration Official Set to Testify on Obamacare Rollout

CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner is sure to have a rough time before House Ways and Means on Tuesday.

HHS CMS
©2013 Richard A. Bloom
Clara Ritger and Sophie Novack
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Clara Ritger Sophie Novack
Oct. 28, 2013, 1:13 p.m.

Cen­ters for Medi­care and Medi­caid Ser­vices Ad­min­is­trat­or Mar­ilyn Taven­ner will testi­fy be­fore the House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee on Tues­day to ad­dress the botched rol­lout of Health­Care.gov.

The hear­ing fol­lows a tense House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee hear­ing last week, when law­makers ques­tioned the web­site’s con­tract­ors on what went wrong and who may have known about the prob­lems ahead of the launch. The con­tract­ors main­tained that CMS was re­spons­ible for over­see­ing the health care ex­changes and was ul­ti­mately in charge of end-to-end test­ing and over­all func­tion­al­ity of the site.

CMS could ac­cept full blame for the troubled rol­lout. Dur­ing a press call Monday, CMS spokes­wo­man Ju­lie Ba­taille said the agency “takes full re­spons­ib­il­ity.” While the pres­sure is on Taven­ner, she could be cov­er­ing for sub­or­din­ates, The New York Times re­ports. At last week’s hear­ing, one con­tract­or named CMS of­fi­cial Henry Chao as their primary point of con­tact with the de­part­ment.

But at the be­gin­ning of Au­gust, Taven­ner said at a House En­ergy and Com­merce hear­ing that “CMS is ready for Oc­to­ber 1, and we are mo­tiv­ated and well pre­pared for the hard work ahead.” As late as the end of Septem­ber, Taven­ner was op­tim­ist­ic about a smooth launch of the Af­ford­able Care Act ex­changes.

The first few weeks since Oct. 1 have been any­thing but smooth. As the first ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial to testi­fy about the failed launch of the fed­er­al ex­change, and the warm-up for Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­ret­ary Kath­leen Se­beli­us, Taven­ner is likely to have a rough day Tues­day.

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