House Democrats Angry At Botched Obamacare Website Rollout

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J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

Storm clouds hang over Capitol Hill on Sept. 27, 2013.

After a Wednesday morning meeting with two Obama Administration officials involved in the new online health ­insurance marketplace, House Democrats could not specifically identify the site’s problems, much less explain how long the contractors would need to fix them. The Department of Health and Human Services, which administers the federal insurance exchange, initially blamed high traffic, but has since acknowledged issues with the site’s software, affecting tasks as essential as creating an account.

After the meeting, many Democrats expressed anger at the way the matter was being handled by the White House. “Some of us, myself included, are somewhat resentful [and] upset, about the apparent incompetency in designing and rolling this thing out,” said Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.). “Who was it that said we are going to go ahead knowing it doesn’t work?”

“I would fire that person,” Nolan added.

Despite requests, the officials at the briefing, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services deputy administrator Gary Cohen and CMS communications director Julie Bataille, did not tell the House Democrats when the website would be fully up and running. “Well we’re working on it,” the officials replied, according to Nolan. “That’s not good enough,” Nolan told TIME. “We don’t have a timeline, but December 15 is a key date,” confirmed Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), referring to the date applicants need to be enrolled if they want to have insurance starting January 1, 2014.

Without a firm grip of the problems, or an idea of when they could be solved, Democrats spoke about the possibility of voting to delay the penalty for those without insurance who fail to sign up for new coverage, an unsavory position after defending ObamaCare tooth-and-nail over the past month. “If there are problems and people need more time, we’ve got to look at that,” said Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.). “And I think that’s one of the options the White House is looking at.”

“It’s not about the time, it’s about getting it right,” says Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.). “And then you can look to see whether it needs to be a month delay or a two month delay, or whatever.”

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), who is in the midst of a tough reelection campaign, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) are advocating for an extension of open enrollment beyond the current end date of March 31, 2014. Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) are other Democrats who may also feel the pull of their 2014 campaigns. About 30% of Americans say the online health insurance exchanges are working “very well ” or “fairly well,” while 46% say they are not, according to a Pew poll released this week.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, CMS Director Marilyn Tavenner, and Obama’s Chief of Staff Denis McDonough met with some of the most prominent health insurance executives in the country Wednesday, including the CEOs of Aetna, Humana, CareFirst, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Wellpoint, and Kaiser Permanente, to discuss how to fix some of the “kinks.” On Wednesday, Sebelius wrote on the HHS blog that the department will start providing updates through regular blogs and CMS press telebriefings. Earlier this week, Sebelius agreed to testify before the Energy and Commerce Committee on Oct. 30. Whether the new, increased effort to keep the public informed will calm the clamor is yet to be seen.

“I don’t think anybody is happy here,” said Garcia. “These are serious, functional issues, and we have to address them.”

MORE: Contractors Launch Obamacare Blame Game Without a Glitch

8 comments
Sarah81472840
Sarah81472840

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MrObvious
MrObvious

I can't understand why people older then me (and I'm in my 40's) would freak out so much knowing the delicate nature of technology on a scale way bigger then some of the stuff we've seen and crashed in the past before it got fixed.

I'm beginning to think that people involved in politics gets some kind of fainting couch training to be extra dramatic all the time.

Always angry, no cool and always treat every little bump in the road as some kind of opportunity to make statements about the serious nature of this complete breakdown in the fabric of perfection.

I get it. The glitches are disappointing. But I think most people needing it would be more disappointed if they never got the opportunity to affordable healthcare. We're not the can do, lets get it done generation.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

Two things seem obvious: 1) if the federal exchange system starts to function reasonably well within a few weeks the ACA should be fine and 2) no one knows when the system will be fixed. So, if the problems get fixed, everyone who hyperventilates about the roll-out problems will look like a hysterical j@ck@ss (except Republicans, who already look like cynical j@ck@sses) and everyone else will appear to have put things in perspective. Should make for interesting Thanksgiving...or something.

drudown
drudown

A better question is WHY the Congressional democrats haven't publicly called out the House for, among other things, (1) failing to promulgate a commercially reasonable Budget on an annual basis as required by law and (2) refusing to raise taxes per the express language of Article I, Section 8 to provide for the Common Defense and General Welfare? Enough about the ACA website. Let's get on the Budget before December rolls around. This Congressional inability to perform prescribed duties implicates Foreign money (i.e., via super-PACs to both sides) being a material hindrance and, as such, operates to deprive the People of their Due Process rights.

How can ANY member of Congress just sit around on his/her haunches as if, in the end, they don't have a LEGAL DUTY to pass necessary Legislation required by the express language of Article I, Section 8? Restated, the "concessions" sought by the GOP Congress to end the "shut down" are, by definition, an Unconstitutional Legislative Veto (see, INS v Chadha (1982) 462 U.S. 919). 

Taken to its illogical conclusion, the Speaker (and, indeed, many “Fairness Act-less” Media talking heads) seem to parrot the same unfounded, GOP theory that, gee, “maybe not following the law and ‘shutting down’ the government is somehow ‘needed medicine’ for the State as if, in the end, the INS v. Chadha, supra, case law does not clearly outlaw such measures.

Notably, no officer of the Court can cite any such legal authority purporting to justify the Congress placing personal interests (e.g., continued access to super-PAC money) over performing legal functions required by Article I, Section 8, i.e., REFUSING to honorably discharge agency on behalf of the People, for none exists. See, e.g., Lundy v. Masson (2008) 260 S.W.3d 482 (“A Fiduciary Duty arises out of agency or operating in an official capacity based on a special relationship between the two parties- particularly where one is subject to the control of the other”). As such, it is simply as unavailing for the Speaker or GOP Congress to invoke some self-made procedural “roadblock” or even purport to interfere with the necessary and proper functioning of the State as it is for the Congressional democrats to pretend the LOSSES caused by the “shut down”, what, didn’t happen or require investigation?

Do your JOB and stop being so blatantly corrupt.

“Danger invites rescue.” – Justice Cardozo, Wagner v. International Railway, 232 N.Y. 176

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

Not that I disagree with Rep Nolan but he is serving his first term ( after leaving politics in 1981 ) after beating a republican.

Just wanted to point out that this may be smart politics for his district. 

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

@shepherdwong And even if it takes considerably longer, by November 2014, Obamacare is going top be a positive force in millions of lives. Running against it is a sucker's bet.