KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Sebelius Says She Is Accountable For Health Website Problems

In testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the secretary of health and human services says problems are not acceptable and her department is working hard to fix it. She also rejects complaints that the law is responsible for recent cancellations by insurers.

The New York Times: Sebelius Apologizes For Health Site's Malfunctions
Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, apologized Wednesday for the frustration that millions of Americans have experienced while trying to shop for insurance on the HealthCare.gov website, even as she defended the problem-plagued rollout of President Obama’s health care law and tried to explain the cancellation of hundreds of thousands of individual insurance policies (Pear, 10/30).

Politico: Sebelius: 'Hold Me Accountable' For Obamacare Debacle
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday that America “deserves better” than the botched Obamacare rollout and said she’s accountable for fixing HealthCare.gov problems that were far worse than the administration anticipated. “You deserve better. I apologize. I’m accountable to you for fixing these problems and I’m committed to earning your confidence back by fixing the site,” Sebelius told a House panel (Millman and Haberkorn, 10/30).

The Wall Street Journal: Sebelius Sorry for Website Woes, Determined to Stay in Job
A data center that hosts the HealthCare.gov site had another network outage Tuesday night. That prompted Ms. Sebelius's department to ask the center's operator, a unit of Verizon Communications Inc., to take the system down overnight to strengthen it, the company said in a statement. As of late morning Wednesday Eastern time, the system wasn't back up, meaning that people in the 36 states for which the federal government is running health-insurance exchanges were getting messages blocking them from creating accounts. Terremark, the Verizon unit, had a previous 16-hour outage that started Sunday and was resolved Monday morning (Schatz and Radnofsky, 10/30). 

The Washington Post: Kathleen Sebelius Acknowledges 'Frustrating' Problems With Health-Care Web Site
Under questioning from committee Republicans during the 3 1/2-hour hearing, Sebelius disputed contentions that people are losing health insurance under the new law. If people get notices of cancellation because their existing insurance was not grandfathered in and does not meet minimum standards, "it's the law that they must get another plan," Sebelius said. "Continuing coverage is part of the law, and that wasn’t the case in the past" (Branigin and Somashekhar, 10/30).

Los Angeles Times: Sebelius Says Obamacare Site Problems 'Fixable,' Defends Overall Law
Even as Sebelius said she was as "frustrated and angry as anyone" with the flawed launch of the online marketplaces, she defended President Obama's healthcare law, saying that "by any fair measure" it was "working for millions of Americans." She also said she would not support delaying a penalty for Americans who do not have health insurance, as many lawmakers, including Democrats, have called for. "Millions of Americans are clearly eager to learn about their options and to finally achieve healthcare security made possible by the Affordable Care Act. And my commitment is to deliver on that promise," she said (Memoli, 10/30).

The Hill: Sebelius: Obama Kept His Promise
She repeated the administration's argument that, if people are losing their plans, it is because of insurance companies and not the new healthcare law. "If a person had a policy in place in March 2010, liked that plan, and the insurance company made no changes to disadvantage the consumer, those policies are in place, you keep your plan if you like it, and that goes on," Sebelius told the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "People though who had a medically underwritten policy, were paying more than their neighbor because they happen to be female … they will have a new day in a very competitive market," she added. Many insurers have stopped offering plans that do not comply with regulations issued by the Health and Human Services Department outlining basic levels of coverage. Consumers who have received such notices are often left with more expensive options (Easley, 10/30).

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