House Energy & Commerce Committee Holds Obamacare Website Hearing

“POINTING THE FINGER”

by Sharon Rondeau

(Oct. 24, 2013) — The House Energy & Commerce Committee is holding a hearing this morning on “glitches” encountered by users browsing or attempting to buy health insurance from Healthcare.gov, which launched on October 1.

Sine then, numerous problems with the website have prevented would-be applicants from signing in, browsing, and selecting insurance plans.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost their health plans as a result of the Affordable Care Act, which is Obama’s “signature” achievement. On Monday, Obama insisted that the law “was working” and that “the website’s gonna get fixed” as he was flanked by individuals who may or may not have actually enrolled.

As of 9:45 a.m., Cheryl Campbell, Vice President of CGI has testified, and a second contractor, Andrew Slavitt, Group Executive Vice President, Optum, is testifying.

All testifiers were sworn in prior to speaking and was provided a five-minute time frame in which to make an opening statement.

Slavitt mentioned problematic codes and the website having frozen because of “overwhelming” traffic in the opening days of the program.  He said that “citizenship” is determined by functions of the website

Lynn Spelley, a representative of Equifax, said that “no problems” were experienced since October 1 and that “stress and volume testing” were done prior to that date.  She said that Equifax does not authenticate the identity and eligibility of applicants, but rather, supplies “income verification” to the “CMS data hub.”

John Lau from SERCO then spoke, stating that is company is responsible for entering information “for the eligibility process” for federal health insurance subsidies.  He said that two of four processing centers have “successfully opened.”  “We’ve had no trouble recruiting competent staff…” he said.

Lau said his staff is “highly motivated” and that paper applications are “trending up,” although he admitted that the number of applications has been “relatively low.”

Chairman Fred Upton then spoke and said that nearly a half-billion dollars had been spent by the taxpayers, who he believed were “expecting to see” a functional website.

Upton asked if “it was ever an option to delay going live on October 1.”  “Any hands up?” he asked, to which no one responded.  Upton then stated that either the contractors knew of the problems beforehand and said nothing or didn’t know.

A list of contractors who were contacted about their work on September 9, 2013 is here:  Memo-Health-PPACA-Pulse-Check-Part-2-2013-9-9

Lau said that his organization did not test its capabilities before October 1.

Campbell said that “CMS had the ultimate decision for a ‘go’ or ‘no-go’ position.”  She said that CMS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was responsible for the decision to “go live.”  CMS is a division of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Fox News commentators broke in just after 10:00 a.m., asserting that the contractors were “pointing the finger” to HHS for the website difficulties.

Journalist Ed Henry said that five Democrats have said in the last 24 hours that the individual mandate deadline should be delayed, perhaps because they are considering their re-election possibilities in November 2014.

Obama allegedly “was not aware” that there were problems with the website.

On September 20, the House had voted to delay the implementation of Obamacare for a year, but the White House and the Senate refused to consider it in exchange for keeping government departments open.  The strategy was reportedly promoted by senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn asked Lau how long his company maintains paper applications, to which he responded, “No more than 30 days.”  She then asked if error logs are maintained, then asked all testifying if they “wanted to submit [these] error logs to us.”  Campbell responded by saying she would have to “check with CMS” to see which information she could release.

The Obama regime has spent approximately $634 million on the development of the Healthcare.gov website.  Sixty days before its launch, it was known that scheduled testing had not been completed on time.

Many believe that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional despite the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2012 upholding it as a tax.

Hearings will continue into next week.

National Review’s Jonah Goldberg said that the contractors appear to have blamed HHS without exactly saying so.

Rep. Joe Barton said that he is concerned about applicants’ privacy is of chief concern.  Barton asked Campbell if there were a “pilot program” prior to the website’s launch.  During his questioning of her, he said, “You are a U.S. citizen…but I don’t think you should be.”  He said the “system is failed.”

Rep. Frank Pallone said that HIPAA does not apply to Obamacare applications and called the hearing a “monkey court” after mocking and insulting Republicans.  He said that applicants are not asked about pre-existing conditions and accused Republicans of urging people not to apply for coverage. He was asked to yield the floor but refused.  He then lectured Republicans about failing to establish state exchanges, including Gov. Chris Christie, which he said would have decreased the stress on the federal website.

The Supreme Court, however, had ruled that it was “coercive” to force states to open their own insurance exchanges against their will.

Pallone asked Campbell if CGI was a “subcontractor” for several weeks, to which she responded in the affirmative.  Campbell stated that challenges in those states were expected to be resolved by December 15 for a January 1 effective date.

“A lot of people are being able to enroll,” Pallone said.  He urged “Republican governors” to expand the Medicaid programs in their states.  “I would just ask the public to please try to find means to enroll…don’t be scared by my GOP colleagues that somehow you’re going to lose your privacy…”

Identity theft can involve Social Security number, address, and other information in addition to health information.

As the hearing proceeds, Obama is speaking on “immigration reform,” which he is urging Congress to pass this year.

Rep. Frank Hall read some constituent examples of loss of health care plans and unaffordability of those Obamacare offers.  He quoted from the U.S. constitution and said that in contrast, the ACA contains billions of words which no one can read.  He cited high unemployment and people having to “navigate a flawed law.”  “What do you want me to tell Americans who are terrified of facing IRS fines….?” Hall asked.

He then asked Campbell what she would say that about whether or not there was “hope,” Campbell asked him to clarify the question.  Hall asked her to “give me something” that he could tell his constituents about whether or not the website would work.  “If you can’t express your opinions to the people you report to, you certainly can’t express them to me,” Hall said.

“Did you really start out with one in Delaware?” Hall asked, to which Campbell replied, “I’m not familiar.”

Hall said he has 700,000 people he “reports to,” and that 690,000 of them “hate the Obama law.”

On Thursday The Daily Caller reported that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had produced substandard website results on “a number” of projects during her term as governor of Kansas.

Also on Thursday, The Hill reported that more than $1 billion in taxpayer monies was paid to Obamacare contractors.

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