Obama Health Care Official Apologizes For ‘Flawed’ Website Launch

'You deserve better. I apologize'

  • Share
  • Read Later
Alex Wong / Getty Images

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is sworn in prior to the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing about the troubled launch of the Healthcare.gov website October 30, 2013 in Washington, DC.

The Obama administration’s top health care official apologized Wednesday for the the “flawed launch” of the federal government’s new health insurance website but said it would be working in time for millions of Americans to buy new insurance for 2014.

“Access to Healthcare.gov has been a miserably frustrating experience for many Americans,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said during a morning hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “You deserve better. I apologize. I’m accountable to you for these problems and I’m committed to earning your trust back.”

The website is part of the Affordable Care Act’s plan to greatly expand health insurance coverage, and is expected to handle new insurance enrollment for millions of Americans in more than 30 states. But since Healthcare.gov’s Oct. 1 launch, the site has been hobbled by crashes and slow response times, drawing heavy criticism from Republican opponents of President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

The hearing was the first chance for Republicans, some of whom have called for Sebelius to resign, to directly question the woman charged with implementing the health insurance plan. Sebelius said that “clearly” not enough testing was done on the site before its launch, but said it is already improving and reiterated the administration’s pledge that it will be working properly by the end of November.

“Over the months leading up to the Oct. 1 launch, the secretary and her colleagues at HHS repeatedly looked us in the eye and testified that everything was on track,” said Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton, who chairs the committee. “But something happened along the way — either those officials did not know how bad the situation was, or they did not disclose it.”

In a heated exchange, Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn asked to know exactly who is responsible for the site’s problems. “Hold me responsible for the debacle,” Sebelius said. “I’m responsible.”

Republican lawmakers also highlighted reports that some insurance plans are being cancelled because they don’t meet new regulations, in seeming violation of Obama’s frequent pledge that “no one will take away” Americans’ insurance if consumers like it. Sebelius said affordable, quality health insurance will be available on the exchange once the website is working. Some Republicans also noted that the site was down again late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning.

Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Rogers called testing of the site’s security “completely unacceptable.”

“Amazon wouldn’t do this,” Rogers said.

Democrats accused Republicans of rooting for the law to fail.

“Unlike ‘Chicken Little’ my Republican colleagues are actually rooting for the sky to fall,” New York Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel. “They’re rooting for failure. … You’re really on the wrong side of history.”
“I would urge my colleagues to stop hyperventilating,” said California Rep. Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the committee. “The problems with Healthcare.gov are unfortunate and we should investigate them, but they will be fixed. And then every American will finally have access to affordable health insurance.”

Sebelius said Republican opposition to the law is making it harder for consumers to get information they need to sign up for the new benefits.

“This is the law, this is no longer a debate,” she said. “It was passed by both chambers of Congress, signed by the president, upheld by the Supreme Court, the president was reelected.”

Asked about payments to contractors who worked on the website, Sebelius said the government “will not pay for something that isn’t complete.”

On Tuesday, Sebelius’s deputy in implementing the law appeared before a different House committee and also apologized for the bungled roll-out of Healthcare.gov. Marilyn Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, indicated that top officials were surprised the site did not function as planned, saying of pre-launch testing, “we were comfortable with its performance.”

Asked about a report that one contractor warned there was not enough time for adequate testing, Sebelius said Wednesday that contractors did not ask to delay the website launch.

17 comments
ColdAir
ColdAir

It's not called SebeliusCare.  If it was all going as planned you can bet Mr. ObamaCare would be front and center.  Nothing like falling on the sword for Obama.  Well acted on her part.

john_rambo
john_rambo

Democrats are truly evil. Just look at her face!

buffalo.barnes102
buffalo.barnes102

Oh my god! A website froze! Lets pull together a bunch of bloated GOP attack dogs (if they can stay awake during the proceedings) and try to flog this into an "issue"! Again and again I ask: Where is the GOP alternative to the ACA? If I held this "Committee" to my ear, I could hear the ocean.  

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

Smart move, Madam Secretary. Just take the blame, apologize, and move on. Takes the steam out of Republican carping. Rep. Waxman is right, the Republicans want this to fail. Once she apologized and took responsibility, the Republicans just look like they're are being small-minded and vindictive, which they are, if they persist in hammering her.

bryanfred1
bryanfred1

There are really only three options here:

1. She didn't know it was this far behind, in which case she's oblivious and not in touch with the launch of the signature law affecting her department.  Under this scenario I'd say it's highly questionable whether she should keep her job.  If I'm Obama I don't want her in charge of the remaining rollout, which will be a hurculean task over the next few years.

2. She did know but didn't tell the President, in which case she was protecting her own rear and the President should fire her for dihonesty, and for making his administration look incompetent and the rollout of the ACA an embarassment.

3.  She did know and did tell the President (I honestly can't believe he wasn't notified of the problems - this is OBAMAcare, after all), in which case we've got bigger problems - a President who's a liar.

None of these scenarios paints an especially flattering picture.

j45ashton
j45ashton

Watching testimony I wonder if Republicans are aware of how their negativity is playing these days...after 5 solid years of relentless GOP negativity.  For the 20%-30% who would prefer to secede I'm sure it's always music.  But for the rest of us including independents, it's just become boring, predictable noise.  Thank God for the mute button.  The 2014 election will tell the tale.  Geo W called the 2006 election "a thumpin' ,"  Compared to 2014, 2006 will feel to the GOP like a cause for celebration.  But I understand GOP's plight.  First, they really have nothing to offer.  And second, they've been negative for so long, they don't even know how to think or speak positively anymore.

daridekas
daridekas

She sounds honest so we should accept her apology and give her a second chance to earn again our trust.

admin2:invetrics

jimtmcnabb
jimtmcnabb

The Republicans continue to dig themselves deeper and deeper into a state of embarrassing lack of dignity.  This sounds more like a lynching than a hearing.    

j45ashton
j45ashton

@Screened If you even had 1/4 of a brain, you might be dangerous.  Doubtful even then.  Go start another birther campaign & plug your head into Fox News.

....
....

@j45ashton 

What do the Republicans have to do with the failed website?

The government paid contractors to use 5 year old technology, an unrealistic timeframe, and aren't paying them until "everything is fixed".

The rollout for this Obamacare has been a joke from the start. I see commercials of some chubby blonde gay guy with a laptop talking and silhouetted basketball players tripping on the court, and how I'm supposed to rush to the heathcare site?

Wake up, and have Obama take some personal accountability for this completely preventable, total failure.

#libtardedamerica
#libtardedamerica

@j45ashton  

aww, is someone upset that a conservative made a good point? grow the f up. you know this is true. when something good happens, it's all about barack. when sh*t hits the fan, it's always someone else. open your eyes, get your head out of your @ss, remove obama's member from your mouth and get off your knees, do whatever it is you need to do, but you really need to stop trying to deny facts, it just makes you sound like an idiotic apologist who blindly follows the leader. oh, and sweet fox news dig there. wherever did you come up with such an oh-so-clever retort? tool bag 

#libtardedamerica
#libtardedamerica

@j45ashton @john_rambo

"Conservatives are truly evil.  Just look at their dumb remarks."

so you're saying you're conservative? because that's a pretty dumb one (read: blind, sweeping generalizations about certain groups of people. you know, the thing liberals AREN'T supposed to do)

j45ashton
j45ashton

@.... I'm 25 years in IT.  I'm sure I know better than you.  There should be accountability both for the vendor & the administration.  Sebelius has already apologized & said she's accountable.  But my comment wasn't about that.  It was about Republican negativity.  If the shoe fits...