KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Republicans Eye Health Law Opportunities To Make Midterm Inroads

Republicans are set to pounce on the health law's rollout problems as a way to make inroads in 2014's midterm elections. Among the strategies they are considering is leaving the law out of budget negotiations but voting again in the House to delay the law. They plan further hearings to question officials on the rollout issues, and some are calling for Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' resignation.

The Associated Press: Obama's Troubled Health Rollout May Be Problem With Kind Of Staying Power That GOP Has Sought
For nearly five years, Republicans have struggled to make a scandal stick to President Barack Obama’s White House. One by one, the controversies -- with shorthand names such as Solyndra, Benghazi, and Fast and Furious -- hit a fever pitch, then faded away. But some Republicans see the disastrous rollout of Obama’s health law as a problem with the kind of staying power they have sought (Pace and Benac, 10/27).

The Associated Press: Republicans Ready To Question Sebelius About Troubled Rollout Of Obama's Health Care Law
Republicans plan to seek answers from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the Obama administration's troubled start for its health care website to buy insurance, and are raising concerns about the privacy of information that applicants submit under the new system. GOP lawmakers said Sunday that the Obama administration will face intense scrutiny this week to be more forthcoming about how many people have actually succeeded in enrolling for coverage in the new insurance markets (Thomas, 10/28).

The Washington Post: QSSI, Contractor Chosen To Fix HealthCare.gov, Faced Questions From Lawmakers Last Year
The company chosen by the Obama administration to oversee the repair of the new federal health insurance Web site faced questions from lawmakers a year ago about whether it was an appropriate choice for earlier work on the site, given that it is owned by the country's largest health insurance company. ... Republican lawmakers including Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.) and Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.) sent letters to UnitedHealth Group and HHS asking how QSSI had been chosen, given what they viewed as a potential conflict of interest. The lawmakers were concerned that QSSI might have access to information or would build the technology in a way that would give UnitedHealth's insurance business an advantage (Yang, 10/25).

CBS News: HHS Secretary Sebelius: Should She Stay Or Should She Go?
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., is a conservative Democrat who has voiced his share of complaints about the troubled rollout of Obamacare's online insurance marketplace. He's criticized the website problems that have stymied consumers shopping for health insurance on HealthCare.gov, the federally administered website that allows people in 36 states to comparison-shop health insurance plans. He's even called for a one-year delay of the IRS penalty for people who neglect to purchase insurance. Yet despite his criticism, he doesn't think Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, whose agency bears ultimate responsibility for overseeing the law's implementation, should be forced out of her job as a result of the rocky start (Miller, 10/27).

Politico: Lawmakers Consider Sebelius Resignation, Obamacare Blame
Rep. Darrell Issa said Sunday that if Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius can't reorganize her agency to meet President Barack Obama's health care agenda, then "she shouldn't be there." "The president has been poorly served in the implementation of his own signature legislation," the Republican congressman from California said on "Face the Nation" on CBS. "If Kathleen Sebelius can't reorganize to meet his agenda, then she shouldn't be there." "Why didn't she know that the president's signature legislation was in trouble?" he added (Emma, 10/27).

The Wall Street Journal: Issa Calls For Sebelius To Resign If Fixes Aren’t Made
A leading House Republican said the nation's top health official should step down if problems with President Barack Obama’s new health-care plan aren't quickly resolved. Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said on CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday that if technical issues plaguing the new online health-insurance marketplaces aren’t fixed, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius "shouldn’t be there." ... Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.) disagreed. "There’s going to be plenty of time to place blame for who’s responsible" later, she said on the news program (Patterson, 10/27). 

The Associated Press: In A Twist, Republican Senators Fight To Keep Tax Increase As Part Of New Health Law
Republicans in Congress don't usually fight for tax increases, especially ones that are part of President Barack Obama's health care law. But GOP senators balked when Democrats proposed delaying a new temporary fee on everyone covered by health insurance. So employers, insurance companies and other health plan sponsors are in line to pay $63 a person next year for everyone who has coverage. The temporary fee covers all workers, spouses and dependents covered by health insurance (Ohlemacher, 10/28).

The Fiscal Times: GOP Budget Strategy Takes Obamacare Off The Table
After having been singed by the 16-day government shutdown and the potential default, Republican lawmakers and their staff are finding that being less aggressive should be to their advantage. Unlike the events leading up to the partial closure, they see less of a need to insist on defunding Obamacare as a precondition for a budget agreement, even if the problematic rollout of the health insurance program has confirmed their objections to it (Pianin and Boak, 10/28).

Politico: GOP May Vote Again To Delay Obamacare 
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) hinted Friday that the House might vote to delay the sign-up date for Obamacare. The current enrollment period lasts through March. Upton's committee had a high profile hearing Thursday with the contractors who built the troubled Obamacare website. Next week, Upton's panel will hear from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Since we had our hearing … there's a number of members -- Republican and Democrat -- that are calling for a further delay in terms of signing things up," Upton said during a taping of C-SPAN's "Newsmakers." "We're going to take a good look at that, and we'll see where we are, maybe having some announcement next week or so, maybe a little longer than that" (Sherman, 10/25). 

Bloomberg: Cruz Says Obamacare Fight Elevated Debate
Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who incited a standoff over Obamacare culminating in a 16-day U.S. government shutdown, told party activists in Iowa that fighting the health law will pay dividends in the 2014 midterm elections (McCormick, 10/26).

Fox News: Unabashed Cruz In Iowa Defends Self On ObamaCare Fight, Against GOP Establishment
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is charging ahead with his argument that attempts to dismantle ObamaCare needed to be part of the recent Washington budget negotiations and is firing back at the GOP establishment and others who say his tactics led to an unnecessary, partial government shutdown. Cruz, who appears poised for a presidential bid, told hundreds at a GOP fundraiser in Iowa on Friday that efforts he led to "defund" ObamaCare will carry the fight through the 2014 congressional and 2016 White House races (10/26).

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