Sebelius on health exchange website: 'Delay is not an option' - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Sebelius on health exchange website: 'Delay is not an option'

Updated: Nov 6, 2013 02:51 PM

By Karen Pallarito
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday that the Obama administration will not consider delaying implementation of health reform. Nor will it take down HealthCare.gov -- the troubled health insurance marketplace website -- while it's being fixed.

"For millions of Americans delay is not an option," Sebelius told the Senate Finance Committee during a hearing on the new health insurance marketplace. "People's lives depend on this," she said.

Sebelius was called before the committee to respond to questions about the health-reform law's rocky implementation, including problems with the HealthCare.gov website. The site is intended to serve as a portal to allow millions of uninsured Americans to sign up for coverage.

During questioning, Sebelius said that a team of public- and private-sector experts given the task of fixing the website was working through a "punch list" of "a couple of hundred functional fixes."

"I would say we're into the list. We're not where we need to be," she admitted.

Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), one of the chief backers of the controversial health-reform law known as the Affordable Care Act, expressed disappointment in the administration's failure to "see the problems coming" prior to the Oct. 1 launch of the website. He asked Sebelius point blank: "Why not shut it down and do it right?"

Sebelius said her team has advised her that HealthCare.gov is fixable. And given that the repairs are taking place in batches, "you don't gain much from just taking the whole system down," she said.

The Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's chief domestic policy achievement, began to take effect in 2010. Under the law, most Americans must have health insurance coverage by 2014 or pay federal tax penalties.

The Oct. 1 launch of the federal and state health insurance exchange websites was intended to be a major milestone in the law's implementation, offering millions of Americans a venue to compare health plans and enroll in coverage, often with the help of federal subsidies. But with the HealthCare.gov website experiencing troubles from the start, many people have been thwarted from signing up for coverage.

Americans in 36 states can use the federal health exchange to enroll in health plans during the current open enrollment period, which runs through March 31. People in 14 states and the District of Columbia will buy coverage through their own state exchanges.

Amid continuing uproar over the federal exchange fiasco, new questions are emerging over many of the health-reform law's key provisions.

Calling the implementation "an absolute debacle," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the committee's second most senior member, questioned Sebelius on the apparent failure of the administration to heed warnings that the federal website posed privacy and security risks.

"I would say that the standards that have been set out for security controls were met," Sebelius responded.

Hatch said the administration's failure to inform the committee of problems with the website before Oct. 1 was "inexcusable." He called on Sebelius to brief the committee once a month for the next six months on the ongoing implementation of the health-reform law, sometimes called Obamacare.

Sebelius told the committee that the administration intends to release enrollment figures next week. The initial figures of people who've successfully signed up for health insurance are expected to be small.

A recent Commonwealth Fund survey found that 17 percent of Americans eligible for coverage had visited the new marketplaces and, of those people, 21 percent had enrolled in a health plan. In other words, a small percentage of people who may be eligible for coverage had actually enrolled, according to the survey.

A report last week, based on informal memos released by the Republican-chaired House Oversight Committee, indicated that only six people had signed up for coverage on the first day of open enrollment, Oct. 1.

Also Wednesday, the chief information officer at the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, whose office supervised creation of HealthCare.gov, is retiring, The New York Times reported.

Tony Trenkle will retire Nov. 15 "to take a position in the private sector," according to an email message sent to agency employees, the Times said.

Reached by telephone on Wednesday, Trenkle declined to discuss his plans, the newspaper reported. "I can't speak with you," he said.

On Tuesday, Utah's Hatch and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) released a letter questioning whether the U.S. Internal Revenue Service was capable of accurately processing the premium subsidies that many Americans may receive to hold down the cost of insurance coverage. The letter to IRS Principal Deputy Commissioner Daniel Werfel warned of potential tax-credit fraud, wasting billions in taxpayer dollars.

More information

Read The Commonwealth Fund report for more on Americans' experience with the new health insurance exchanges.

Copyright © 2013 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

  • Medical News HeadlinesMedical News HeadlinesMore>>

  • Migraine Relief: Stopping Pain & Relieving Pressure

    Migraine Relief: Stopping Pain & Relieving Pressure

    Friday, April 18 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-18 21:15:06 GMT
    Meredith Messerli is thankful she can study without pain. The college freshman spent two years of her life battling severe migraines.more>>
    Meredith Messerli is thankful she can study without pain. The college freshman spent two years of her life battling severe migraines.more>>
  • Hope For Lanie: Curing SMA

    Hope For Lanie: Curing SMA

    Thursday, April 17 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-17 21:15:09 GMT
    SMA attacks the body's motor neurons and causes paralysis. There is no cure, but for the first time doctors are studying an experimental therapy that targets more than just symptoms.more>>
    SMA attacks the body's motor neurons and causes paralysis. There is no cure for SMA but for the first time doctors are studying an experimental therapy that targets more than just symptoms, it targets mutated SMN genes, which are responsible for SMA.more>>
  • Washing Lungs & Breathing Better

    Washing Lungs & Breathing Better

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-16 21:15:09 GMT
    Imagine not being able to breathe without struggling: every breath you take is work; every breath you take could be your last. That was the case for one man who became dependent on an oxygen tank to stay alive.more>>
    Imagine not being able to breathe without struggling: every breath you take is work; every breath you take could be your last. That was the case for one man who became dependent on an oxygen tank to stay alive.more>>
  • Ocular Melanoma: Saving Lives, Saving Eyes

    Ocular Melanoma: Saving Lives, Saving Eyes

    Friday, April 11 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-11 21:15:07 GMT
    Ocular melanoma, also called uveal melanoma, is a rare type of melanoma that targets the eye. It can be a deadly if it isn't spotted early enough. Now, there's a way to treat patients that's saving lives and saving eyes.more>>
    Ocular melanoma, also called uveal melanoma, is a type of melanoma that targets the eye. It affects about 2,000 people a year in the United States. Although rare – it can be a deadly if it isn't spotted early enough. Now, there's a way to treat patients that's saving lives and saving eyes.more>>
  • Memory Palace: Coping With Chemo Brain

    Memory Palace: Coping With Chemo Brain

    Thursday, April 10 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-10 21:15:09 GMT
    More than 13 million Americans are living with some form of cancer. Harsh treatments like chemo and radiation save lives, but they will also change lives. Now, many cancer survivors are learning how to cope with chemo brain.more>>
    More than 13 million Americans are living with some form of cancer. Harsh treatments like chemo and radiation save lives, but they will also change lives. Now, many cancer survivors are learning how to cope with chemo brain.more>>
  • Pedaling For A Cure

    Pedaling For A Cure

    Wednesday, April 9 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-09 21:15:09 GMT
    Five years ago, Leslie Trudeau's world came crashing down. At just 22 years old, her son Taylor lost his battle with leukemia. That's why Trudeau is pedaling for a cure.more>>
    Five years ago, Leslie Trudeau's world came crashing down. At just 22 years old, her son Taylor lost his battle with leukemia. That's why Trudeau is pedaling for a cure.more>>
  • Bringing Hearts Back To Life: New Improved Defibrillator

    Bringing Hearts Back To Life: New Improved Defibrillator

    Tuesday, April 8 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-08 21:15:13 GMT
    CPR and a portable defibrillator helped keep Eric Robinson alive after he went into cardiac arrest. And now a newly FDA approved Biotronik implantable cardiac defibrillator, or ICD, constantly monitors his heart.more>>
    A year ago, while jamming with his son's band, Eric Robinson went into cardiac arrest. CPR and a portable defibrillator helped keep Robinson alive. And now a newly FDA approved Biotronik implantable cardiac defibrillator, or ICD, constantly monitors his heart.more>>
  • Helping High Risk Hearts

    Helping High Risk Hearts

    Monday, April 7 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-07 21:15:09 GMT
    Ironing is not exactly Barbara Roy's favorite activity, but it's something she's glad she can do again. Her doctor diagnosed her with severe aortic stenosis.more>>
    Ironing is not exactly Barbara Roy's favorite activity, but it's something she's glad she can do again. Her doctor diagnosed her with severe aortic stenosis.more>>
  • Hernias In Newborns: Lincoln's Story

    Hernias In Newborns: Lincoln's Story

    Friday, April 4 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-04 21:15:07 GMT
    Congenital diaphragmatic hernias occur in about one in every 2,000 births. They can be deadly, but now doctors are using a more aggressive treatment approach.more>>
    Congenital diaphragmatic hernias occur in about one in every 2,000 births. They can be deadly, but now doctors are using a more aggressive treatment approach.more>>
  • Predicting Bad Hearts

    Predicting Bad Hearts

    Thursday, April 3 2014 5:15 PM EDT2014-04-03 21:15:09 GMT
    Every year, more than 700,000 Americans have a heart attack. Now, researchers at Baylor Research Institute at Dallas have uncovered a biomarker that may help them spot the disease sooner.more>>
    Every year, more than 700,000 Americans have a heart attack. And 600,000 die of heart disease. Now, researchers at Baylor Research Institute at Dallas have uncovered a biomarker that may help them spot the disease sooner; and they did it by pure accident.more>>
*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.
Powered by WorldNow
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 NewsChannel 5 (WTVF-TV) and WorldNow. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.