OVERNIGHT HEALTH: GOP steps up ObamaCare rollout criticism

ADVERTISEMENT
Republicans homed in on two key topics Tuesday. In one case, the GOP side of the House Energy and Commerce Committee demanded that the administration release figures from the flawed first enrollment week, when most healthcare.gov users could not create accounts, let alone shop for coverage. The Department of Heath and Human Services (HHS) has declined to say how many people actually purchased health plans on the federal exchanges through this week, but White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday that total enrollment figures would be released monthly. 

The GOP also focused on reports of price hikes for people apparently purchasing healthcare coverage individually. Senate Finance Committee Republicans released a compilation of posts to the healthcare.gov Facebook account in which users argued that the law was markedly increasing the cost of their coverage. The Affordable Care Act requires healthcare plans to offer a basic level of coverage, a change the administration acknowledges will raise premiums for some patients. But it is possible that policyholders facing higher prices will be able to find cheaper plans on the new insurance exchanges. 

Healthwatch has both stories

ObamaCare? Bueller? Anyone? President Obama gave an impromptu press conference Tuesday — and received zero questions about the exchanges' rocky rollout. The press conference was another indication that the GOP is missing an easy opportunity to score political points off problems in the enrollment process. In the midst of a shutdown caused largely by Republicans' objections to the law, the focus was squarely on the GOP's tactics. Healthwatch has more.

Not just traffic: The problems plaguing healthcare.gov in its first week did not stem solely from the site's overwhelming traffic, technical experts and healthcare stakeholders said. They cited structural problems with the site's design — and some said the problems could get worse. 

A source close to the insurance industry said things aren’t looking good so far. State and federal systems appear to have problems communicating with each other, and insurers aren’t confident in the accuracy of subsidy calculations for the few consumers getting that far in the process.

Read our full story on the site's woes.

Don't sweat it: A leading outside advocate for ObamaCare delivered an upbeat message Tuesday when asked about the problems plaguing the law's online enrollment portal. Ron Pollack, executive director of patient advocacy group Families USA, called the site's wide-ranging errors a "temporary phenomenon" that would not ultimately impede enrollment in the exchanges. 

"I believe they are likely to get fixed in the next few days," Pollack said on a call with reporters. 

The story is here.

FDA furloughs: President Obama was briefed Tuesday on how the government shutdown is affecting the Food and Drug Administration, according to a senior administration official. The shutdown has prompted the FDA to stop approving new products, including prescription drugs — "hurting businesses that are looking to move products to market and delaying patients’ access to potentially life-changing drugs," the official said.


Wednesday's agenda

Sarah Hall Ingram, the head of the Internal Revenue Service's main ObamaCare office, is slated to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The House Small Business Committee's Health panel will hold a hearing on the healthcare reform law's effect on full-time employment.


State by state

Kentucky's exchange has enrolled nearly 7,000 people.

Washington state's exchange says it has enrolled more than 9,400 people.

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, Milwaukee's health department hasn't signed anyone up for ObamaCare benefits.


Lobbying registrations

Greenberg Traurig, LLP / Equifax Workforce Solutions


Reading list

Slate takes a look at the problems with healthcare.gov

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius visited Florida on Tuesday to make the case for enrollment, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

People seeking to enroll in health insurance through the new marketplaces are turning to call centers and paper applications, NBC News reports.


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Consumer groups tell senators to reject piecemeal funding bills

Medical groups warn change to maintenance standards would lead to higher risk

Poll: 65 percent oppose tying ObamaCare to shutdown, debt ceiling fights

IRS's top ObamaCare official to testify on Capitol Hill

Labor head: Mine deaths during shutdown ‘extremely troubling’


Comments / complaints / suggestions?

Please let us know:

Sam Baker: sbaker@thehill.com / 202-628-8351 / @sam_baker

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