OVERNIGHT HEALTH: White House struggles to defend Obama healthcare claim

The White House on Tuesday struggled to defend President Obama’s 2009 claim that people could keep their old health insurance under ObamaCare, as thousands of people received notifications that their insurance companies were dropping their plans. 

White House press secretary Jay Carney argued that people were only forced from their insurance if their health insurance companies no longer offered their plans. But many insurers have stopped offering plans that do not comply with regulations issued by the Health and Human Services Department outlining basic levels of coverage. 

As a result, many consumers who currently buy their own health insurance will not be able to keep the plans they are enrolled in. 

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Republicans have seized on the controversy, saying it flies in the face of Obama’s 2009 promise that “if you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan” under the new law. 

The discrepancy has put Democrats in the difficult position of either acknowledging that the president made a misleading statement or parsing the argument into something more nuanced. Jonathan Easley and Justin Sink at The Hill report.

Sorry: Marilyn Tavenner, the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, apologized Tuesday before a congressional panel for the botched launch of HealthCare.Gov.

 


“I want to apologize to [the American people] that the website has not worked as well as it should,” she said. “We know how desperately you need affordable coverage ... this initial experience has not lived up to our expectations or the expectations of the American people and it is not acceptable.” 


Tavenner was the first Obama administration official to face angry congressional critics over the bungled healthcare rollout. Her boss, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will testify in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. Jonathan Easley at The Hill reports.

Wasn’t me: Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is hitting back at the contractors who blamed her agency for the botched ObamaCare website rollout. 

Sebelius blames a “subset” of contractors who “have not met expectations” for the website’s problems in an opening statement she’ll deliver Wednesday to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. 

She’ll tell the panel that the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) used private contractors to administer aspects of Medicare, but that some failed in handling the ObamaCare website. 

Committee members last week heard testimony from representatives of four of the largest contractors tasked with building the website. 

The contractors denied responsibility for the system's problems, and charged that HHS had failed to effectively coordinate the project. Jonathan Easley at The Hill reports.


Subpoenas drop: House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has subpoenaed ObamaCare contractor Quality Software Services Inc. (QSSI) for documents regarding the development of HealthCare.gov. 

Last week, President Obama appointed former Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients to oversee the fix-it process for the website. He tasked QSSI with leading the repair, taking over as the main contractor. 

QSSI testified at a hearing last Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the rocky rollout. Its witnesses said the contractor had wished for more time to test the site but was only given a few weeks. Rebecca Shabad at The Hill reports.

Singing a different tune: Democrats knew all along that some patients would lose their health insurance plans under the new law, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) acknowledged on Tuesday.

 Although President Obama had vowed repeatedly that, under his signature healthcare initiative, those who like their plans could keep them, millions of patients are reportedly in individual plans that don't meet the law's minimum coverage criteria, forcing them to buy better insurance.

Hoyer, for his part, defended the shift, arguing the better coverage — which includes preventative care requirements — would pay dividends down the line for both patients and taxpayers alike. Mike Lillis at The Hill reports.

 

Wednesday's Schedule
The House Energy and Commerce Committee will host Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to testify about ObamaCare's rollout.  

 

State by State
The administration has been tight-lipped about it so far, but Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) is trying again to obtain her state's enrollment figures for the Affordable Care Act, The New Hampshire Union Leader reports.

Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) says he doesn’t regret allowing the federal healthcare exchange in his state, The Star-Ledger reports.

Hospitals in North Carolina are looking to cut costs after the state declined to take up the federal Medicaid expansion, The Fayetteville Observer reports. 

 

Reading List
The website is fixable, but ObamaCare is not, writes Peter Schiff at RealClearPolitics.

Greg Sargent at the Plumline says Democrats can’t have a meaningful debate with Republicans about healthcare.

Ross Douthat at The New York Times looks at those who will lose out under ObamaCare and why they matter.

Aaron Carroll at CNN says Republicans are being hypocritical on ObamaCare.

 

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Jonathan Easley / jeasley@thehill.com / 202-407-8014 / @joneasley

Elise Viebeck / eviebeck@thehill.com / 202-628-8523 / @eliseviebeck