OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Zients to help fix ObamaCare

The White House is bringing in former acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeff Zients to work with the team overseeing repairs to the ObamaCare website. 

Zients served as the White House chief performance officer, and in September was named as the director of the National Economic Council.


White House press secretary Jay Carney said Zients was chosen because he was "an expert in the field of effective management." Carney sidestepped a question about whether he was brought in as part of an attempt to sideline Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusSebelius on GOP healthcare plan: 'I'm not sure what the goal is here' Obama's health secretary to be first female president of American University Leaked email: Podesta pushed Tom Steyer for Obama’s Cabinet MORE, saying simply that the former acting OMB director would be "working alongside HHS's team."

Zients joined the administration in 2009 as the deputy director for management at the OMB. A private equity and corporate management specialist, Zients twice served as acting budget director and led an effort to reorganize federal agencies to eliminate inefficiencies. Justin Sink at The Hill has the story.

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GOP demands briefing: House Republicans demanded a briefing on ObamaCare's rollout after news broke Tuesday that the administration would huddle on healthcare reform with House Democrats. "This snub is all the more offensive after Secretary Sebelius declined to testify at a House hearing this week," spokesman to Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE (R-Ohio) Brendan Buck said in a statement.

Mike Hash, a top official at the Department Health and Human Services (HHS), will meet with Dems on Wednesday morning. Hash leads the HHS's Office of Health Reform and will be the first administration official to brief lawmakers since healthcare.gov launched on Oct. 1. Healthwatch has the details.

Tavenner to testify: The House Ways and Means Committee announced that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner will testify next week on ObamaCare's rollout. Read the notice here.

Hoyer says rollout 'unacceptable': The Obama administration's rollout of the Affordable Care Act has been an "unacceptable" failure that's disappointed supporters and invigorated critics, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) charged Tuesday. 

"This was not done the way it should have been done. Period," he said during a news conference in the Capitol.

Hoyer, the minority whip, emphasized that the ongoing problems with the ACA's federal insurance exchange website are technical, and warned that there's no substance to the GOP claims that those troubles are reflective of the underlying law. The Hill's Mike Lillis has the story.


Shaheen urges enrollment extension: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Cybersecurity: Anticipation builds for Trump cyber order | House panel refers Clinton IT contractor for prosecution | Pentagon warned Flynn about foreign payments Dem senator fears Russian election interference could be ‘normalized’ Russian interference looms over European elections MORE (N.H.) on Tuesday became the first congressional Democrat to urge President Obama to extend the open enrollment period for ObamaCare given the problems with healthcare.gov. “If an individual is unable to purchase health insurance due to technical problems with enrollment, they should not be penalized because of lack of coverage,” she wrote in a letter to Obama. Read more at Healthwatch.

Issa wants answers: House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Tuesday charged that the ObamaCare site is floundering because federal officials tried to hide the “sticker shock” of insurance premiums.

 In a letter to two top technology officers at the Office of Management and Budget, Issa accused the administration of making the “political decision” to mask the costs of insurance premiums online, which he says contributed to the botched website development.

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Oversight ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) responded, saying Issa’s letter “mischaracterizes the briefing we received and omits key information that directly contradicts your accusations.” Jonathan Easley at The Hill reports.

BREAKING: Ohio Republicans are suing to block the state's Medicaid expansion, which was just approved by the board, with the help of Republican Gov. John Kasich, a day earlier.

BREAKING: A district court judge is giving the green light to a challenge to ObamaCare that would limit the subsidies the government can hand out to help people buy health insurance. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia did not throw out a case arguing that the federal government cannot grant the subsidies to people in states that had not set up their own insurance marketplaces.

Alexander demands enrollment updates: Rep. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderLawmakers reintroduce online sales tax bills Overnight Healthcare: New GOP health bill on life support | ObamaCare insurer threatens to leave over subsidies Trump's FDA nominee clears key Senate committee MORE (R-Tenn.) is writing legislation that would require the Obama administration to provide weekly reports to Congress and the states about enrollment under ObamaCare. 
The Obama administration has so far refused to provide any hard information about the number of people who have tried to sign up for insurance under the health insurance exchanges. 
Pete Kasperowicz at The Hill reports.

The warning signs were there: ObamaCare's online enrollment system failed a basic simulation ahead of its debut, but federal officials decided to go live anyway. 
Experts with knowledge of the site's construction said that Healthcare.gov was riddled with errors ahead of Oct. 1, but there was little time to correct problems before the system went online. 
Elise Viebeck at The Hill has the story.


State by State

The Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens are getting $130,000 from the state of Maryland to promote ObamaCare.

Ohio’s Medicaid expansion is a big win for ObamaCare.

Indiana Republicans are demanding ObamaCare enrollment numbers.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad says his efforts to reduce Medicaid fraud have saved his state $86 million.

Reading List

Canada has “death panels,” and that’s a good thing.

Jon Stewart is a big problem for President Obama.

Is ObamaCare in a death spiral?

The healthcare law is much more than a website.


What you may have missed on HealthWatch

HHS dealing with ‘high volume of media requests’ on ObamaCare.

Rep. Virginia FoxxVirginia FoxxAn ounce of prevention … Trump, Congress, cut these regs to make higher education great again A guide to the committees: House MORE (R-N.C.) is calling on President Obama to waive fines associated with the failure to sign up for ObamaCare, because most are unable to sign up for insurance using the government's broken website.

Verizon's Enterprise Solutions division is helping the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) fix the Heathcare.gov website.

Jon Stewart savages HealthCare.Gov.


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


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