As everyone who reads the newspaper has surely heard by now, the Affordable Care Act’s HealthCare.gov, and challenges related to insurance exchange enrollment and coverage since the site opened on October 1st, have been a magnet for Congress’ attention lately. Members of Congress in both chambers and both parties have expressed their frustration at the rollout of the new insurance exchanges, the website, and the as-yet-undisclosed enrollment numbers – both in the media, and in hearing rooms. In the last few weeks, key committees in the House and Senate have heard from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, and some of the key contractors responsible for designing and operationalizing the federally-facilitated exchange healthcare.gov web portal – which around half of states are relying on for their citizens to enroll in new insurance plans (see which states here). Congress has been responding in a multitude of ways: from requests and subpoenas for HHS to produce enrollment numbers, security protocols, and a list of technical problems with the website, to expressions of frustration and dissatisfaction with the federally-run marketplace, to bipartisan bills which would relax the criteria for “minimum coverage” insurance plans while the website and exchanges work out the kinks so people can enroll.
Secretary Sebelius and Administrator Tavenner have committed to solving the issues and maintain that the website will be fixed by the end of November. In her testimony last week, the Secretary reported on several hundred fixes underway to the website already, but that they are not “where they need to be.”, She also indicated that they will have the first batch of “quite low” enrollment numbers at the end of this week, and that there will be no delays to implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Regardless of the ongoing Congressional spotlight on the ACA and healthcare.gov – and we don’t see it waning anytime soon – health centers remain hubs of enrollment and access to affordable healthcare for millions of underserved Americans. Stay tuned to the blog for updates, and watch Secretary Sebelius’ most recent appearance last Wednesday, November 6th before the Senate Finance Committee here.