House committee grills Sebelius on Obamacare implementation, website problems

Kathleen Sebelius

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee got their chance to ask embattled Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about the disastrous rollout of the federal Obamacare exchange website, Healthcare.gov, and other issues that have arisen in recent days with the law.

“The Energy and Commerce Committee welcomes the President’s point person on healthcare, Secretary Sebelius, as part of our continuing oversight of the healthcare law and we look forward to a thoughtful conversation on a number of issues, including transparency and fairness,” said Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) in his prepared opening remarks.

Sebelius Reveals Administration’s Flawed ObamaCare Concept of Insurance

Kathleen Sebelius

It’s well established by this point that ObamaCare’s full implementation in 2014 will cause premiums to increase significantly.  This cold fact draws a sharp contrast to President Obama’s campaign promise that he would cut the average family’s premium by about $2,500 per year, and Nancy Pelosi’s 2012 pledge that under ObamaCare “everybody will have lower rates.” The Obama administration is now searching for talking points to explain these failures as the looming realities of 2014 begin to confront the administration’s prior platitudes.

The latest theory making its way through the Beltway is that coverage under ObamaCare will be more expensive because it will provide the type of comprehensive coverage that we’ve all been waiting for.  Here is how the AP reported on HHS Secretary Sebelius’s recent comments in response to a study by the Society of Actuaries finding that insurance companies will have to pay out an average of 32% more for medical claims under ObamaCare:

At a White House briefing Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said some of what passes for health insurance today is so skimpy it can’t be compared to the comprehensive coverage available under the law. “Some of these folks have very high catastrophic plans that don’t pay for anything unless you get hit by a bus,” she said. “They’re really mortgage protection, not health insurance.”

The Road to 2014: Obamacare Regulations Ramp Up

We are now only a month into the President Obama lame duck-era, yet the post-election deluge of Obamacare regulations is already well underway. Clearly, these regulations were completed prior to the election, withheld to prevent any political blowback. This should come as no surprise. Here’s a quick rundown of the latest expansive entries into the Federal Register:

Essential Health Benefits (77 FR 70644, November 26, 2012)

Obamacare lists ten broad categories of health benefits as essential health benefits (EHB), to be defined in detail by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has instead put this burden on the states. States are to choose a benchmark plan to serve as the framework for EHB in that state. The states that refuse will have a default benchmark plan assigned to them. Individual health policies sold on state or federally facilitated exchanges (referred to as qualified health plans, or QHP) must actually provide these EHB. For employer sponsored group health plans, only non-grandfathered plans that are insured in the small group market must provide EHB. Any grandfathered, large market, or self-funded group health plan does not need to provide EHB, but they cannot impose any lifetime or annual limits on the dollar value of EHB. Welcome to Obamacare.

ObamaCare goes on trial

Today, the Supreme Court will take up perhaps one of the most important cases we’ll see in our lifetime. Over the next three days, members of the nation’s High Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), also known as ObamaCare.

While we’ve seen several important cases over the 20 years that have dealt with economic and civil liberties — including property rights, free speech, and habeas corpus, Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida deals directly with the limitations placed on Congress by the Constitution.

The question of whether or not ObamaCare is good policy is meaningless to the Supreme Court. The issue at hand isn’t that law won’t keep health insurance premiums, or because it raises taxes or that it is unpopular with the American public. The only thing that matters, or at least should matter, is the Constitution.

During today’s oral arguments, the Supreme Court will hear an hour of arguments on whether or not legal challenges to the individual mandate are barred by the Anti-Injunction Act. The reason for this question is because the penalities that would be imposed by the individual mandate won’t be in place until 2014. Since no one has been necessarily impacted by the policy, the theory is that the court could punt until it’s implement.

Missing the point on the contraception mandate

Over the past few weeks there has been much discussion of the Obama Administration’s decision to mandate that even organizations associated with the Catholic Church cover contraception.  This has raised the ire of many on the right, who view this mandate as an assault on religious freedom.  Since the Catholic Church does not believe in using contraception, they argue, forcing them to cover it means they must violate their consciences.  Leaving aside the details, one thing is clear to me - the critics of the mandate are almost without exception missing the larger point.

The contraception mandate is awful, for sure, but not because it is an “assault on religion.” It is wrong because the government has no business telling ANYONE what they must cover.  The mandate would be wrong whether it was inflicted on a Catholic group, or a secular one.  And to be honest, I don’t think that religion is even a major factor in the decision to establish the mandate.  It is born out of a belief that there is some imaginary “right” to free health care, including contraception.  That is the true abomination.

Furthermore, why is there outrage only now?  Is it somehow okay to force non-Catholics to pay for other’s health care?  I understand this involves an issue of great moral importance to Catholics.  But is a federal mandate more wrong because it goes against a religious teaching?  I say this because many, including myself, do not subscribe to a religion, or belong to one without much political clout.  It is disturbing that somehow my liberty is not worth as much because I am in a minority and I don’t have groups lobbying on my behalf.

Saturday Night Live hilariously mocks Obamacare website launch

SNL Healthcare.gov skit

Oh, man. Saturday Night Live had some fun with the miserable, embarrassing launch of the federal Obamacare exchange website, Healthcare.gov.

The skit, which was the cold open to the show on Saturday evening, featured HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (Kate McKinnon), who was trying to downplay the launch of the website while she offered troubleshooting tips to help users.

“Now, a lot of folks have been talking about our new healthcare enrollment website — how its been crashing and freezing and shutting down and stalling and not working and breaking and sucking,” said the fake Sebelius.

“Well, tonight, I have a number of friendly tips to help you deal with those technical problems. For example, have you tried restarting your computer? Sometimes it helps to turn the computer off and then turn it back on. We don’t know why, it just does,” she laughed, nervously.

She said that if it the site was still not working properly, it’s “because millions of Americans are visiting Healthcare.gov.” But she said, “Unfortunately, the site was only designed to handle six users at a time.” She urged people to visit the”low-res site,” while clicking a mouse that brought up a site reminiscent of something out of the mid-1990s, complete with animated gifs and the header, “U WANT DOCTR?”

The fake HHS Secretary then said that if the low-res site wasn’t working, that users should try to sign up in a different language. She added that if the site was still not working, that there were links to other websites.

Fire Sebelius: Mitt Romney for HHS Secretary

Former Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius was appointed by President Obama to be Secretary of Health and Human Services in 2009. After Obamacare’s passage in 2010, she had one job - to make its implementation smooth, and the timeline in the law gave her almost four years to do it.

Three weeks after the federal insurance exchanges opened, it is clear that she has failed miserably at that job. The calls for her resignation are mounting, and an upcoming appearance before a House committee will only accelerate the outrage. Most cabinet secretaries don’t make it through a president’s full two terms, whether because of stress, scandal, or a desire for new energy at those high profile positions.

So with Sebelius potentially on her way out, who should replace her? There is only one man for the job: Mitt Romney!

[pause for laughter]

Now now, hear me out! Think about it. Who else has the experience turning around failed national projects, reigning in out of control budgets, hiring the right people to clean up a wasteful operation, and right down to the details, implementing a health care reform plan with an insurance exchange and individual mandate?

House committee to probe ObamaCare implementation, Sebelius refuses to attend hearing

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will this week begin looking into the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its very large role in implementing the federal ObamaCare health insurance exchange, Healthcare.gov, which was launched early this month in an embarrassing fashion.

Since launching on October 1, the federal exchange has been plagued by glitches and errors, making the experience very frustrating for many users. The lack of server capacity, faulty design and software, and a strategic decision to put income verification at the start of the enrollment process have all been cited as reasons for the programs.

These problems have led to lower than expected enrollment numbers, though the Obama Administration won’t confirm how many people have actually enrolled in a health insurance plan through the exchanges. The embarrassing role out also seriously contradicts claims made by the administration and contracted companies working to implement the exchanges.

Government paid $93.7 million to tech firm that built ObamaCare website

How much did the Obama Administration pay for a glitchy, error-plagued ObamaCare exchange website? A report yesterday from Digital Trends noted that the Department of Health and Human Service, which is over seeing much of the implementation of ObamaCare, has shelled out over $634 million to the company that’s responsible for the website.

“The exact cost to build Healthcare.gov, according to U.S. government records, appears to have been $634,320,919, which we paid to a company you probably never heard of: CGI Federal,” wrote Andrew Couts at Digital Trends. “The company originally won the contract back in 2011, but at that time, the cost was expected to run ‘up to’ $93.7 million – still a chunk of change, but nothing near where it apparently ended up.”

Greg Pollowitz, a conservative journalist, expressed doubts yesterday about that number, noting that the figure counts contractual agreements between GGI Federal and DHHS before ObamaCare was even signed into law. It’s also unlikely that every contract with the company pertained to the federal ObamaCare exchange website.

Administration official struggles to defend ObamaCare on “The Daily Show”

Kathleen Sebelius on

Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, isn’t exactly known for carrying water for Republicans. But you wouldn’t have known that on Monday night when he sat down with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss ObamaCare.

During the nearly 11-minute interview, Stewart grilled Sebelius about the break big businesses have received and asked why individuals, especially those who may not want to participate in the law, aren’t getting the same treatment.

Stewart began the segment with a dig at the glitches that the health insurance websites have experienced since they were rolled out last week. “We’re gonna do a challenge,” he told Sebelius as he pulled out a laptop. “I’m gonna try and download every movie ever made and you’re gonna try sign-up for ObamaCare, and we’re gonna see which happens first.”

Sebelius began touting the exchanges, claiming that people will have a chance to compare insurance plans “[f]or the first time,” ignoring the fact that there have long-been websites, such as eSurance, that have allowed consumers to shop and compare and contrast between plans that fit their needs.

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