Even though GOP laments about HealthCare.gov ring hollow, Congress is correct to press the Obama administration on why the launch of the insurance marketplace went so badly and when the website will be fixed.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in the hot seat Wednesday, appearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The former Kansas governor apologized for the website’s technical problems, which have prevented millions of Americans from signing up for health insurance.
“The initial consumer experience of HealthCare.gov has not lived up to the expectations of the American people and is not acceptable,” Sebelius said in her written testimony.
That’s an understatement. It has been nearly impossible to create an account on the site. There also have been various error messages or long waits for information to process.
In short, it’s been a disaster.
Though the site recently has improved somewhat, Sebelius noted that “there is still significant additional work to be done.”
Technology experts brought in by the administration say that it could be the end of November before the site is fully functional.
Republicans are also raising concerns about thousands of Americans receiving cancellation notices because their current insurance plans are now considered substandard – contrary to President Obama’s promise that “if you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan.” Will HealthCare.gov be fixed before their insurance coverage runs out?
A growing number of GOP lawmakers – including several from the Kansas delegation – have called on Sebelius to step down or be fired.
“No private-sector chief executive officer would escape accountability after such a poor performance,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
But the GOP lawmakers’ obstructionism is one reason why Sebelius is unlikely to be sacked. Obama knows that the lawmakers likely would block the nomination of anyone he selected to replace Sebelius and use any confirmation hearings as another forum to rail against Obamacare.
GOP lawmakers have shown no interest in being constructive, which is why their worries about the website seem so phony. They’ve repeatedly tried to repeal or defund the Affordable Care Act, rather than improve it. And several GOP governors, including Sam Brownback, turned down federal money to create their own state insurance marketplace. Some are even preventing county health care workers from helping people sign up for insurance.
Still, there is no excuse for such an incompetent rollout.
Administration officials have blamed contractors for the website glitches. But the system should have been thoroughly tested so that the problems were identified and fixed before the Oct. 1 launch. That’s the administration’s fault.