| WASHINGTON, July 31
WASHINGTON, July 31 U.S. consumers who purchase
private health coverage through the federal Obamacare website
HealthCare.gov are likely to find only modestly higher premiums
but may still have technical problems signing up, a top health
official said on Thursday.
"It won't be perfect," Andrew Slavitt, a newly appointed
principal deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and
Medicaid Services (CMS), told lawmakers at hearing before a
House of Representatives oversight committee.
"It's a bumpy process at times," he added. "I think we've
got a committed team of people, though, that by and large are
doing a very good job. But there will clearly be bumps."
However, Slavitt said the three-month 2015 open enrollment
period that begins Nov. 15 will be under vastly different
circumstances from HealthCare.gov's botched launch last October,
when the website was overwhelmed by technical problems for
Despite claims by Obamacare's foes that consumers would face
double-digit cost increases for 2015, Slavitt said early
indications from several states, including Rhode Island,
Delaware and Washington, point to premium hikes in the
"While this isn't going to be true for every single
individual and every single county in America, by and large the
early results look very positive," he said.
Slavitt was previously an executive at a government
contractor working on the site and a leader of the rescue team
that turned around HealthCare.gov in time to allow more than 5
million people in 36 states to obtain coverage.
He said the administration has overcome planning, management
and cost control problems that led to the disastrous rollout and
a subsequent explosion of costs that hit $840 million in March.
Slavitt was speaking before the House Energy and Commerce
Oversight and Investigations subcommittee a day after the
watchdog Government Accountability Office reported soaring
increases in contractor costs for the federal marketplace.
He said CMS now has a better handle on two factors that led
to overruns: the size and complexity of the operation and a lack
of control over contractor costs and performances. "I don't
expect those overruns," he said.
But Slavitt still cautioned lawmakers about the potential of
higher costs, saying: "It is not unusual for large-scale health
projects ... (to) cost a couple billion dollars to put in
The Obama administration has billed Slavitt's appointment as
part of an effort to bring fresh talent to CMS, the federal
agency implementing President Barack Obama's healthcare law.
Republicans raised the issue of a potential conflict of
interest, pointing out that Slavitt's job at CMS is to oversee
his former employer, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group Inc
that has a government contract to work on
UnitedHealth also sells insurance policies on the federal
Slavitt said he has disposed of his holdings in the company
and signed an ethics pledge that limits his interaction with his
former employer to the marketplace implementation project.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Dan Grebler)