Sebelius: HHS ‘on track’ for website fix

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusJerry Moran: 'I wouldn't be surprised' if Pompeo ran for Senate in Kansas Mark Halperin inks book deal 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care MORE said Tuesday the Obama administration would meet its self-imposed Nov. 30 deadline to have HealthCare.gov running better.

“We are definitely on track to have a significantly different user experience by the end of the month,” Sebelius said on a conference call with state and local elected officials about the ObamaCare rollout.

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HHS has been under tremendous pressure to fix the problem-plagued federal healthcare exchange website, which has frustrated consumers with slow load times and error messages since its launch on Oct. 1.

The agency left itself a little bit of wiggle room by saying only that the website would be “running smoothly for most users.” However, putting a firm date on the fix could magnify any lingering issues the website might have.

Sebelius on Tuesday said that there isn’t “a magic turn-on switch” that could be flipped at the end of the month to solve all of the website’s problems, but argued that progress has been incremental and would lead up to a better website experience on that date.

“The experience is vastly improved each and every day,” she said.

The secretary also defended President Obama’s promise that if you like your healthcare plan, you could keep it. The White House has suffered severe political blowback as millions have received cancellation notices.

Sebelius said it was “important to put the issue into perspective,” arguing that the notices were going to a small percentage in the individual markets whose policies lacked basic “consumer protections.”

The “vast majority” of those in the individual markets were locked out of adequate plans because of costs or pre-existing conditions, she said.

Beyond Nov. 30, the administration will still need to address other areas that have plagued the healthcare rollout.

The first month’s enrollment numbers were embarrassingly low because of the website issues, and the administration needs a diverse group of young and healthy consumers to sign up so that premiums don’t spike in 2015.

On Tuesday’s brief call with officials helping to enroll consumers at the local level, Sebelius implored participants to attend campus events and to reach out to community colleges and other “high target” areas that might be fertile ground for potentially young and healthy consumers.

HHS hasn’t released a breakdown of enrollees by age or zip code but has warned that initial participants in the exchange will likely be higher risk, with an influx of young and healthy consumers flooding the market in the weeks before the enrollment deadlines.