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A Cheat Sheet For The Obamacare Hearings

Over a month, 10 hearings plumb the problems with HealthCare.gov.

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Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius prepares to testify before the Senate Finance Committee on November 6, 2013. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Every few days, it seems, there’s another hearing into one problem or another with rolling out the Affordable Care Act. It’s hard to keep track.

Since late October, by my count, there have been 10 House and Senate hearings. Eight were by House committees led by Republicans who oppose the law; two were before Senate panels run by Democrats.

The most memorable of the hearings was Oct. 30 when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius first testified about the HealthCare.gov debacle. Also buzzworthy was the Nov. 13 hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The panel subpoenaed Todd Park, the U.S. chief technology officer, and it was unclear whether he would appear (he did.)

Here’s a look at highlights from the Hill:

Date: October 24, 2013
Committee: House Energy and Commerce

Title: PPACA Implementation Failures: Didn’t Know or Didn’t Disclose?

Witnesses: Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president, CGI Federal; Andrew Slavitt, group executive vice president, Optum/QSSI; Lynn Spellecy, corporate counsel, Equifax Workforce Solutions; John Lau, program director, Serco

Length: 4 hours, 24 minutes

Minority party response and transcript.

Highlight: “Federal officials did not fully test the online health insurance marketplace until two weeks before it opened to the public on Oct. 1, contractors told Congress on Thursday,” the New York Times reported. “While individual components of the system were tested earlier, they said, the government did not conduct ‘end-to-end-testing’ of the system until late September.”

Memorable exchange:   

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas): Will the gentleman yield?

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.): No, I will not yield to this monkey court or whatever this thing is.

Barton: This is not a monkey court.

Pallone: Do whatever you want. I’m not yielding.

Watch the hearing:

 

Date: October 29
Committee: House Ways and Means

Title: Status of the Obama Administration’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act

Witness: Marilyn Tavenner, administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Length: 2 hours, 51 minutes

Minority party response.

Hearing highlight: “The federal official who oversees new health-insurance exchanges apologized publicly Tuesday for the troubled launch of a Web site that is supposed to allow millions of uninsured Americans to buy coverage, but she said the problems are “fixable” and pledged that the site would soon work as promised,” the Washington Post reported. “Testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee, Marilyn Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said: ‘To the millions of Americans who’ve attempted to use HealthCare.gov to shop and enroll in health-care coverage, I want to apologize to you that the Web site has not worked as well as it should. We know how desperately you need affordable coverage.’”

Watch:

Date: October 30
Committee: House Energy and Commerce

Title: PPACA Implementation Failures: Answers from HHS

Witness: Kathleen Sebelius, secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Length: 3 hours, 34 minutes

Minority party response and transcript.

Hearing highlight:  “Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius apologized to Americans Wednesday for the dysfunctional Web site that has hampered the rollout of the new national health care law,” USA Today reported. “‘You deserve better,’ Sebelius said in testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. ‘I apologize. I’m accountable to you for fixing these problems.’”

Memorable exchange:

Barton: “Madam Secretary, while you’re from Kansas, we’re not in Kansas anymore. Some might say that we are actually in the Wizard of Oz land.”

Pallone (later): “I know we’re not in Kansas, but I do believe increasingly we’re in Oz because of what I see here.”

Date: November 5
Committee: Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions

Title: The Online Federal Health Insurance Marketplace: Enrollment Challenges and the Path Forward

Witness: Marilyn Tavenner, administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Length: 2 hours, 34 minutes

Hearing highlight: “Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said Tuesday that fixes have been made to the federal Web site to improve users’ experiences. She also answered questions about an exchange security breach that she said is fixed. In the meantime, the Obama administration faces growing skepticism from those in its own party on the rollout,” Kaiser Health News reported.

Watch:

Date: November 6
Committee: Senate Finance

Title: Health Insurance Exchanges: An Update from the Administration

Witness: Kathleen Sebelius, secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Length: 2 hours, 35 minutes

Hearing highlight: “Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sought to reassure lawmakers in a Senate Finance Committee hearing Wednesday that fixes — hundreds of them — are being made to HealthCare.gov, but rejected calls to delay the law or shut the website down. She also said she expected enrollment from October to be “quite low,” Kaiser Health News reported.

Watch:

Date: November 13
Committee: House Oversight and Government Reform

Title: Obamacare Implementation: The Rollout of HealthCare.gov

Witnesses: Frank Baitman, deputy assistant secretary for information technology, Department of Health and Human Services; Henry Chao, deputy chief information officer and deputy director of the Office of Information Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; Todd Park, U.S. chief technology officer, Office of Science and Technology Policy, The White House; Steve VanRoekel, U.S. chief information officer and administrator, Office of Electronic Government, Office of Management and Budget; David Powner, director, Information Technology Management Issues, Government Accountability Office; Richard A. Spires, former chief information officer, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Karen Evans, partner, KE&T Partners, LLC

Length: 5 hours, 24 minutes

Minority party response

Hearing highlight: “A top White House technology official told a House committee Wednesday that HealthCare.gov can currently handle up to 25,000 Web site users at the same time. White House chief technology officer Todd Park said technology teams were working aggressively to fix the website and get it working “for the vast majority” of Americans by the Nov. 30 deadline set by the administration,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “The federal agency running HealthCare.gov, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, originally envisioned a site with capacity to handle up to 60,000 concurrent users, Mr. Park said. Heavy usage of the site is expected near the Dec. 15 deadline for people to sign up for coverage effective Jan. 1.”

Watch (in three parts):

Date: November 14
Committee: House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health

Title: Obamacare Implementation Problems: More than Just a Broken Website

Witnesses: The Honorable Michael J. Astrue, former commissioner, Social Security Administration; Avik Roy, senior fellow, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research; Roger Stark, M.D., health care policy analyst, Washington Policy Center; Sabrina Corlette, research professor, Health Policy Institute, Georgetown University; Marilyn Dixon-Hill, registered nurse and clergy person, Camden Bible Tabernacle

Length: 2 hours, 26 minutes

Minority Party response and transcript.

Watch:

Date: November 19
Committee: House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

Title: Security of HealthCare.gov

Witnesses: Henry Chao, deputy chief information officer and deputy director of the Office of Information Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; David Amsler, president and chief information officer, Foreground Security, Inc.; Maggie Bauer, senior vice president, health services, Creative Computing Solutions, Inc.; Jason Providakes, senior vice president and general manager, Center for Connected Government, MITRE Corporation

Length: 3 hours, 15 minutes

Minority Party response

Hearing highlight: “Henry Chao, the Obama administration official who oversaw the technical development of the federal health insurance marketplace, said Tuesday that his team has yet to complete 30 to 40 percent of the overall project,” the Washington Post reported. “Speaking before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Oversight Committee, Chao said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is still working on a number of “back office” aspects of the project, including a system to send payments to insurance companies.”

Watch:

Date: November 22
Committee: House Oversight and Government Reform

Topic: Field Hearing: ObamaCare Implementation: Sticker Shock of Increased Premiums for Healthcare Coverage (Gastonia, N.C.)

Witnesses: Dan Waters, president, Dan Waters & Associates, Hickory, NC; Joel Long, President, GSM Services, Gastonia, NC; Tav Gauss, CEO, Action Group Human Resources Solutions; Sherry Overbey, director, Belmont Crisis Pregnancy Center; Jason Falls, owner, Falls Insurance, Kings Mountain, NC

Hearing highlight: “As the Affordable Care Act rollout continues to plague the Obama administration, Americans are feeling the impact of the bill across the country, according to testimony by local residents at a field hearing Friday,” ABC News reported. “The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee packed the courthouse here for the first of four field hearings scheduled in the coming weeks to scrutinize the implementation of the president’s signature bill.”

Date: November 25
Committee: House Oversight and Government Reform

Topic: Field Hearing: Obamacare Implementation: High Costs, Few Choices for Rural America (Gainesville, Ga.)

 

Editor’s Note: This post is adapted from Ornstein’s “Healthy buzz” blog. Has your insurance been canceled? Have you tried signing up for coverage through the new exchanges? Help us cover the Affordable Care Act by sharing your insurance story.

who is going to pay the extra costs added for fixing the dysfunctions of the website including the cost due to extra hiring in the call Centers?

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Obamacare and You

Obamacare and You

The Rollout of the Affordable Care Act has been marred by glitches and political opposition.

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