KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Sebelius Says Fixes Coming, Rejects Calls For Delay

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sought to reassure lawmakers in a Senate Finance Committee hearing Wednesday that fixes -- hundreds of them -- are being made to, but rejected calls to delay the law or shut the website down. She also said she expected enrollment from October to be "quite low."

The New York Times: Sebelius Rejects Delays To Get Time To Repair Problems At Health Site
Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said Wednesday that the government needed to fix hundreds of problems with the website for the federal health insurance marketplace, but she categorically rejected bipartisan calls to delay parts of the new health care law (Pear, 11/6).

Los Angeles Times: Sebelius On Offense, Tells Senate Panel She Won't Delay Obamacare
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday that she had considered shutting down the problematic Obamacare website, but has no intention of delaying implementation of the nation’s new health care law. "Delaying the Affordable Care Act wouldn't delay people's cancer, diabetes or Parkinson's," Sebelius said in testimony before the Senate Finance Committee. "Delay is not an option." In her second appearance on Capitol Hill since the botched Oct. 1 rollout of, the secretary went on the offense as the administration retools its strategy to preserve President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement (Mascaro, 11/6).

The Washington Post: Sebelius Assures Fixes Are Being Made To
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday that the government is working to fix a "couple of hundred" problems with the federal health insurance Web site and that once the site is running smoothly, she will "re-invite" people who have been turned off by the technical headaches. Sebelius, appearing before the Senate Finance Committee, rejected calls from politicians in both parties to delay aspects of the health care law, including by extending the initial open enrollment period beyond March 31 for buying insurance on the new online marketplaces. People who don't buy coverage by then risk being fined (Somashekhar and Kliff, 11/7).

The Wall Street Journal: Exchange Site Needs Hundreds Of Fixes
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius offered a sobering picture Wednesday of the challenges in fixing the government's health-insurance website, saying contractors need to fix a couple of hundred problems and "we're not where we need to be." Ms. Sebelius spoke in Senate testimony hours before new information emerged about the site's lack of readiness before its Oct. 1 opening. In an internal bulletin released by House Republican investigators, a contractor testing the site reported that, as of Sept. 30, it could handle up to 1,100 users before response time became too slow (Schatz, 11/6).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Sebelius: Health Care Website Needed Couple Of Hundred Fixes When Repair Effort Began
Republicans blistered Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday over the nation's controversial health care law, bluntly challenging her honesty, pushing for her resignation and demanding unsuccessfully she concede that President Barack Obama deliberately misled the public about his signature domestic program. … During two hours in the Senate Finance Committee witness chair, Sebelius parried some thrusts and listened impassively to others. Treated more gently by Democrats than Republicans, she said at one point: "Clearly the opposition is still quite ferocious, and I'm just hoping that people understand what their options are, what their benefits could be and what their opportunities are" (11/6).

Politico: Kathleen Sebelius Hearing Takeaway: More Bad News
Kathleen Sebelius got through the latest Obamacare hearing Wednesday, but her message to Senate Democrats was a bit of a downer: Expect more bad news. The Health and Human Services secretary told the Senate Finance Committee that the Obama administration is on track to fix the sputtering federal enrollment website. Well, maybe not on track exactly -- "not where we need to be" (Nather, 11/7).

PBS NewsHour: Kathleen Sebelius To Congress Delay Of Health Care Law 'Not An Option'
Lawmakers confronted Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius with skepticism over fixes yet to be made on and concerns over cancelled policies. However, Sebelius maintained her stance to not delay the heath care law (Holman, 11/6).

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Democrats' Frustrations With Health Law Grow Amid Website Problems
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey and CQ HealthBeat's Rebecca Adams discuss recent Capitol Hill events. For instance, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at a Senate hearing Wednesday that officials were advised to keep open while fixing problems and also fielded criticism of President Obama's promise that if Americans like their old health plans they can keep them (11/6). Read the transcript or listen to the audio.

ABC News: Sebelius: Obamacare Oct. Sign-Ups Will Be 'Quite Low' 
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius predicted Wednesday that the October enrollment figures released next week will likely be "quite low" after consumers have struggled to access the online marketplace for Obamacare. "The enrollment numbers which we will release next week, which will be the first month of enrollment, are likely to be quite low given that struggles people have had getting access to the site and getting information," Sebelius said at a Senate Finance Committee hearing Wednesday (Saenz, 11/6. 

McClatchy: Sebelius On The Hot Seat Again Over Health Care Website 
After a longtime family friend repeated his call for her resignation during a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius warned of "very low" numbers when enrollment figures for the troubled website are released next week "Until the site is fully improved and we really kind of open up the doors wide to a lot of people, we're going to have, I think, a struggle getting significant numbers to sign up," she testified at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee (Pugh, 11/6).

CQ HealthBeat: Sebelius Offers No Relief For Cancelled Policyholders Beyond Pledge To Fix Website
Hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of Americans with health insurance policies that will be cancelled as of Jan. 1 face a loss of health benefits eight weeks from now with little certainty that the website that could provide them alternative coverage will be fixed (Reichard, 11/6).

Republicans, and even some Democrats, say the law has been painted by the rollout -

Reuters: Lead Author Of Obamacare Law Criticizes Administration Over Rollout
Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, who worried openly in April that the rollout could become "a train wreck" said he has been disappointed to hear administration officials say they didn't see problems with the federal health care website coming (Morgan and Cornwell, 11/6).

CNN: GOP Focuses On Overall Obamacare Troubles, Not Just Website 
Republican foes of Obamacare still use words like "disaster" and "epic" failure in describing the problems with, the portal for enrolling in President Barack Obama's signature health care reforms. However, they also concede the technology problems will likely get resolved, as promised again Wednesday by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a Senate Finance Committee hearing (Cohen, 11/7).

Elsewhere, the specifics of the website's problems become clearer -

Medpage Today: Docs Lack ACA Plan Contracts, Senator Says
Providers are complaining that they have yet to receive contracts from insurers for participation in health plans being offered through the Affordable Care Act's insurance marketplaces, a senator said Wednesday. The issue was brought up by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who questioned Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee. … Sebelius said only qualified health plans are on the ACA's exchanges or marketplaces, and those qualified plans have networks that are deemed adequate by regulators (Pittman, 11/6).

Bloomberg: U.S. Health Website Handled Only 1,100 In Test At Start
The Obama administration’s health insurance website handled only 1,100 simultaneous users before faltering in a test a day ahead of its opening, according to a contractor’s report.  A Sept. 30 “stress” test on the site,, found it accommodated 1,100 users “before response time gets too high,” contractors wrote in the “ACA Daily Testing Bulletin,” released yesterday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (Wayne, 11/7).

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