KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Top Official Faces Tough Questions On Health Law Website’s Bumpy Rollout

Tesitfying before the House Ways and Means Committee, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner apologized for the website's difficulties and faced tough questioning from members of the panel.

The Washington Post: Medicare Chief Marilyn Tavenner Apologizes For Botched Rollout Of HealthCare.gov
The federal official who oversees new health-insurance exchanges apologized publicly Tuesday for the troubled launch of a Web site that is supposed to allow millions of uninsured Americans to buy coverage, but she said the problems are “fixable” and pledged that the site would soon work as promised (Kliff and Branigain, 10/29).

The Associated Press/CNBC: Medicare Chief Apologizes For Obamacare Glitches
An internal memo obtained by The Associated Press shows that the administration expected nearly 500,000 people to gain coverage just in October, the program's first month. Tavenner repeatedly declined to cite enrollment numbers, saying they will not be provided until mid-November. House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, drew his own conclusion. He told Tavenner that by his math, the administration appears headed for less than a fourth of its October sign-up estimate (10/29).

Reuters: Obamacare Official Apologizes For Website Glitches
Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said the website faces "complex technical issues" four weeks after it opened for enrollment. ... Tavenner's testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Ways & Means Committee is the Obama administration's first formal statement to Congress about the challenges facing Healthcare.gov (Morgan and Heavey, 10/29).

USA Today: Official Apologizes For Health Site Delays, Cites Progress
More than 700,000 people have created accounts to buy health insurance on state and federal health care exchanges since they opened Oct. 1, the director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said Tuesday, although the site has been plagued by problems. ... Tavenner, however, did not disclose the number of people who have actually enrolled in health insurance through the federal exchange despite repeated questioning from Rep. Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican and the committee's chairman (Kennedy, 10/29).

Los Angeles Times: Top Official Apologizes For Obamacare Website Glitches
Republicans, though, are broadening their focus from technical glitches at healthcare.gov to spotlight issues that could prove more problematic to the administration going forward, as some Americans without employer-sponsored health plans face increased premiums or loss of coverage because their previous insurance plans failed to meet new standards under the Affordable Care Act (Memoli, 10/29).

The New York Times: Obama Official Apologizes for Balky Insurance Website
The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Representative Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan, said that at least 146,000 Michigan residents had recently received notices that their current insurance policies would be canceled because the coverage did not meet requirements of the new health care law. ... Ms. Tavenner said that existing insurance policies were, in many cases, inferior to the new policies they could get. In compliance with the health care law, she said, new policies will provide more benefits and pay a larger share of medical costs than many existing policies (Pear, 10/29).

CNN: Obamacare Website Administrator Apologizes, Says System Works
At the same time, Tavenner also conceded that some people with individual health coverage -- rather than the group coverage that most Americans have -- will be forced to get new policies because of increased requirements under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. "These individuals in a small group, our individual markets, had no protections" before the reforms became law, Tavenner explained. Before the health care reforms, such consumers "could be kicked out any time for pre-existing conditions" or realize too late that their policies failed to cover hospitalization or cancer treatments, Tavenner said. Now, the reforms protect them by requiring a minimum standard of coverage, she added (Cohen, 10/29).

The Wall Street Journal: Tavenner Apologizes For HealthCare.gov Problems
On Wednesday, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is expected to face tough questioning from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which spent 4½ hours last week grilling HealthCare.gov contractors. The hearings are part of a broader effort by House Republicans to battle President Barack Obama’s health law. But plenty of Democrats are also frustrated at the rollout. At the hearing last week of contraqctors, several Democratic members expressed disappointment, especially after getting repeated assurances from Obama administration officials that the system would work (Schatz, 10/29). 

Bloomberg Businessweek: Obamacare Contractors Blamed For Site As Tavenner Apologizes
The official most responsible for the rollout of the Obamacare health-insurance exchange blamed a "subset" of outside contractors for the website woes, not her staff, in testimony before a U.S. House committee. ...  Written remarks by Sebelius for tomorrow’s hearing echoed Tavenner, saying "the experience on healthcare.gov has been frustrating for many Americans." A handful of Republicans in the House and Senate have been calling for Sebelius to step down. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said today Sebelius should be held accountable (Wayne and Edney, 10/29).

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