hearing: Partisan fights, govt. apologies, blame all around


Yesterday's hearing on the launch was so marked by partisan bickering among lawmakers that Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner (pictured right) barely had time to talk, the National Journal reported.

"Democrats want to make the Affordable Care Act work. Congressional Republicans don't," Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) told the House Ways & Means Committee on Tuesday.

Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) added, "While the website can eventually be fixed, the widespread problems with Obamacare cannot."  

When Tavenner, the first administration official to testify publicly about healthcare reform implementation, did manage to get a word in at Tuesday's hearing, she apologized for the problems, The Washington Post reported.

"To the millions of Americans who have attempted to use to shop and enroll in healthcare coverage, I want to apologize to you that the website has not worked as well as it should," she told the Ways and Means Committee.

While Tavenner wouldn't disclose exchange enrollment information, she said the administration would release the numbers in mid-November and expects an enrollment spike in December and March, according to CBS News.

She maintained her agency didn't poorly manage the health exchange initiative, the Post noted, but acknowledged, "In retrospect, we could have done more about load testing."

Meanwhile, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (pictured left), who sits at the center of the controversy, blamed contractors for the rocky launch of the insurance exchanges at a hearing today, according to her testimony.

"CMS has a track record of successfully overseeing the many contractors our programs depend on to function. Unfortunately, a subset of those contracts for have not met expectations," Sebelius told the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Two of the contractors played the blame game last week in testimony to the Energy and Commerce Committee. CGI Federal blamed another contractor's software for initial problems while Quality Software Services (QSSI) cited unexpected consumer demand, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

For more:
- here's the National Journal article
- here's the Post article
- read the CBS News article
- check out Sebelius' testimony (.pdf)

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