Week ahead: ObamaCare enrollment, take two

ObamaCare’s exchanges opened for enrollment on Saturday in a pivotal moment for HealthCare.gov.

The federal online portal that serves 37 states has undergone months of repairs and testing since it closed for general sign-ups in the spring. Now, the site will either help or hurt the Obama administration in its effort to enroll 9.1 million people by Feb. 15.

Congressional lawmakers will be watching the proceedings closely in their final weeks in session before the holidays, though only one panel will hold a hearing on HealthCare.gov.


The House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Oversight will hold a hearing on the role of the White House chief technology officer in the rollout crisis last fall.

Led by Rep. Paul BrounPaul Collins BrounHundreds apply to fill Isakson's Senate seat in Georgia Joe Lieberman's son running for Senate in Georgia California lawmaker's chief of staff resigns after indictment MORE (R-Ga.), the panel will hear testimony from former White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park.

In the Senate, advocates are pushing leaders to take up the nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy for surgeon general before Thanksgiving.

Murphy, a Yale-trained doctor who was first floated for the position more than a year ago, has been criticized by the GOP, as well as the National Rifle Association, over his support for background checks on gun purchases. Murphy reportedly met senators last week.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell weighed in on the nomination for the first time last week, saying that “a trusted doctor voice” would lift the department’s efforts against Ebola as well as other public health crises.

Though media attention on the issue has dwindled, both chambers will focus on the Ebola epidemic for the rest of the week.

The Obama administration is pressing Congress to approve $1.8 billion to fight the virus, and lawmakers in both parties appear poised to give the White House the funding.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who leads a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa and global health, is also planning a bill that would send $1.8 billion overseas even more quickly than the White House funding bill.

On Tuesday, Smith’s subcommittee will explore how healthcare workers and international organizations are fighting Ebola on the ground in Africa. The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight will look at the U.S. public health response to the outbreak in a hearing later that day.

Three more panels will look at issues arising from the Ebola outbreak on Wednesday.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will examine U.S. readiness for major public health threats. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will meet to mark-up several bills, including one designed to speed development of Ebola drugs and treatments.

And the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee will investigate how Ebola has affected the creation of medical products in its own hearing.

The outbreak’s death toll surpassed 5,000 this week, and another U.S. patient is being transported from Sierra Leone on Saturday for treatment in Omaha, Neb.

Finally, the Senate HELP subcommittee on primary health will round out the week by examining “skyrocketing” prices for generic drugs on Thursday.

Top stories:

ObamaCare reboot a test for Burwell: http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/223797-obamacare-reboot-a-test-for-burwell

HHS: Expect fewer ObamaCare sign-ups: http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/223525-hhs-lowers-obamacare-enrollment-expectations

Burwell makes HHS case for immigration reform: http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/223783-hhs-chief-makes-plea-for-immigration-reform

Voter ‘stupidity’ remark gives GOP new ammo on ObamaCare: http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/223953-voter-stupidity-remark-gives-gop-new-ammo-on-obamacare

White House disagrees with 'stupidity' remarks: http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/223999-white-house-disagrees-with-stupidity-comments-on-obamacare

GOP chairman rips 'deadly incompetence' of US Ebola response: http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/224014-top-republican-who-botched-ebola-response