HHS Secretary in the Hot Seat over Affordable Care Act Snafus

Over the course of a hearing lasting more than three hours, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius fielded questions, complaints, and some praise from members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the Affordable Care Act’s implementation.  Sebelius readily admitted to the failures in the Marketplace website, but promised to have the site “fully functional” by the end of November. 

Speaking further on the website, Sebelius denied that there were security problems inherent in the site, and explained that the hub “is not a data collector.” She said that a “skilled hacker” uncovered a theoretical problem with security, but that the problem was promptly fixed.  Sebelius placed much of the blame on inadequate “end to end testing” of the site before it was launched.  Democratic members of the committee claimed that the alleged privacy problems were “red herrings” brought up to detract from the Affordable Care Act’s successes. 

Several Republican members of the committee raised reports from citizens of their insurance policies being cancelled, despite previous promises by the President that individuals would be able to keep their insurance plans if they so chose.  Sebelius countered that insurance plans typically last year-to-year, and that insurance companies often change their policies from one year to the next or cancel them.  She claimed that since the Marketplaces create competition among policies in the private insurance market, it makes sense that some companies are canceling “lousy” policies that are too costly and therefore cannot compete with cheaper or more comprehensive policies. 

Other members of the committee demanded an accounting for the millions of dollars spent on the website development. 

More information about this hearing, including an archived webcast of the proceedings, can be found here.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.