KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

House Panel Grills CMS Chief Tavenner On Health Law Website, Cancellations

Tavenner, who oversees the agency responsible for developing, apologized for the many problems consumers are encountering as Republicans expand their concerns.

The Associated Press: Obama Official Blames Insurers For Wave Of Policy Cancellations, Apologized For Website Woes
Move over, website woes. Lawmakers confronted the Obama administration Tuesday with a difficult new health care problem — a wave of cancellation notices hitting individuals and small businesses who buy their own insurance. At the same time, the federal official closest to the website apologized for its dysfunction in new sign-ups and asserted things are getting better by the day (Alonso-Zaldivar and Ohlemacher, 10/29).

NPR: Insurance Cancellations Elbow Out Website Woes At Health Hearing
When the head of the agency responsible for the troubled went before Congress for the first time since its foibles became apparent Oct. 1, she probably didn't expect that many questions would be on something else altogether. But the website turned out not to be the focus of questions for Marilyn Tavenner by Republicans at the Ways and Means Committee hearing Tuesday. They were more interested in asking about cancellation notices being received by people who purchase their own insurance (Rovner, 10/29).

Politico: Obamacare Woes Move Beyond Website
Tuesday's hearing about the fumbled Obamacare roll-out was all the proof we needed that the Republicans are serious about their talking point that the law's problems go beyond the website. They've moved on to other things — cancelled individual insurance policies, privacy concerns, and possible nasty surprises for young adults who may not know they can't get subsidies (Nather, 10/29).

The New York Times: Health Site Chief Expects Low Initial Enrollment Number
Ms. Tavenner, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said that "nearly 700,000 applications have been submitted to the federal and state marketplaces" in the last four weeks. But she repeatedly refused to say how many of those people had actually enrolled in health insurance plans since the federal and state marketplaces, or exchanges, opened on Oct. 1 (Pear, 10/29).

The Washington Post: Administration Official Marilyn Tavenner Apologizes For Problems
[She] also defended her agency’s management of the project and blamed some of the setbacks on the main contractor, Fairfax-based CGI Federal. Tavenner is the first administration official to testify publicly about the problems plaguing the Web site that supports the health law. She told members of the House Ways and Means Committee that the site is working, though not as well or as fast as officials would like (Somashekhar, 10/29).

McClatchy: HealthCare.Gov Official Apologizes; Website Problems "Took Us By Surprise"
[Tavenner] said the inability of the website to establish individual user accounts and handle the initial volume of users shortly after open enrollment began on Oct. 1 "was not anticipated" and "did not show up in testing" (Pugh, 10/29).

Los Angeles Times: Top Official Apologizes For Obamacare Website Glitches
Even as she acknowledged problems with the online exchanges Tavenner, a former nurse and secretary of health and human resources in Virginia, highlighted successes of the law. Seventy-eight million Americans have saved $3.4 billion as insurance companies lowered rates to meet a requirement of the law, she said, and millions more already have coverage because of it (Memoli, 10/29).

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Medicare Head Tavenner Apologizes For Problems
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey talks with Politico Pro's Jennifer Haberkorn about events on Capitol Hill, including the Tuesday testimony of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner in which she said that some website subcontractors hadn't met expectations, but offered few other details on the problems (10/29).

Politico: CMS Mantra: It'll Work By December
November's shaping up to be a major test of Obamacare functionality. That's when new features of the health law’s enrollment system — some of which have been put off repeatedly because of insufficient testing — are slated to go online. Among them: online enrollment in the marketplace for small businesses, a Spanish-language enrollment website and the transfer of Medicaid applications from the feds to the states (Cheney, 10/30).

Related, earlier KHN story: Thousands Of Consumers Get Insurance Cancellation Notices Due To Health Law Changes (Appleby and Gorman, 10/21)

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