Sebelius cites increase in healthcare marketplace enrollment
Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 01:12
Dec. 11 - U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says more Americans are enrolling for healthcare coverage but an investigation into the federal website's roll-out will move forward. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
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The Obama administration touted improvements to its new health insurance website on Wednesday and opposition Republicans shifted their criticism to the slow pace of early enrollments and fears some people may be left uninsured when coverage starts on January 1.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in her third congressional hearing since the disastrous October 1 rollout of the website at the center of President Barack Obama's policy overhaul, sought to reassure lawmakers that steps were being taken to find out what went wrong and to install a stronger management team.
U.S. officials reported on Wednesday that about 365,000 people signed up for healthcare coverage in October and November through the federal HealthCare.gov website and online portals to 14 other marketplaces operated by individual states. The online shopping sites for insurance plans were established under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.
Republicans questioned the veracity of the numbers. At a congressional hearing, Representative John Shimkus of Illinois took issue because Sebelius could not say whether those who signed up through the marketplaces had secured their enrollment by paying their first month's premiums.
Sebelius testified that interest in the subsidized coverage provided under the law had grown to 5 million visitors who logged onto a revamped HealthCare.gov during the first week of December alone. Officials are expecting a surge in enrollment before a December 23 deadline for people to sign up for coverage that starts at the beginning of next year.
Enrollment appeared to be far off track of a forecast from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that 7 million people would sign up in Obamacare plans by March 31. The administration has said it does not have specific targets for enrollment in the first year.
Hours before the start of Wednesday's hearing, Sebelius announced in a blog posting that she had asked her department's inspector general to investigate the performance of private contractors in the flawed debut of HealthCare.gov.
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