Thursday, December 5, 2013
By Ricardo Alonso-zaldivar And Laurie Kellman
The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the difficulties plaguing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
The Associated Press
“I would urge my colleagues to stop hyperventilating,” said Waxman. “The problems with HealthCare.gov are unfortunate and we should investigate them, but they will be fixed. And then every American will have -- finally have access to affordable health insurance.”
Throughout the 3 1/2-hour hearing, Sebelius was respectful and poised, often addressing lawmakers as “sir” or “congresswoman.” She kept her cool as some lawmakers repeatedly cut off her answers. But she did not shy a few times from tersely interjecting her views while a member was speaking.
The standing-room-only hearing room was silent when she swore an oath to tell the truth and began her statement. “I apologize,” she told the rapt committee.
Sebelius faced questions about problems with the website as well as a wave of cancellation notices hitting individuals and small businesses who buy their own insurance.
Lawmakers also want to know how many people have enrolled in plans through the health exchanges, a number the Obama administration has so far refused to divulge, instead promising to release it in mid-November.
On Tuesday, Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner was questioned for nearly three hours by members of the House Ways and Means Committee who wanted to know why so many of their constituents were getting cancellation notices from their insurance companies.
The cancellations problem goes to one of Obama’s earliest promises about the health law: You can keep your plan if you like it. The promise dates back to June 2009, when Congress was starting to grapple with overhauling the health care system to cover uninsured Americans.
As early as last spring, state insurance commissioners started giving insurers the option of canceling existing individual plans for 2014, because the coverage required under Obama’s law is significantly more robust. Some states directed insurers to issue cancellations. Large employer plans that cover most workers and their families are unlikely to be affected.
The law includes a complicated “grandfathering” system to try to make good on Obama’s pledge. It shields plans from the law’s requirements provided the plans themselves change very little. Insurers say it has proven impractical. The cancellation notices are now reaching policyholders.
Tavenner blamed insurance companies for cancelling the policies and said most people who lose coverage will be able to find better replacement plans in the health insurance exchanges, in some cases for less money.