KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Sebelius: A Review Will Probe Launch Problems

Just as the November enrollment figures were released, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified Wednesday before a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee where she was again grilled on the difficulties that have plagued the website.

The New York Times: U.S. Cites Rise In Health Plan Signups As Sebelius Testifies
The number of people selecting health insurance plans in the federal and state marketplaces increased last month at a brisk pace, bringing the overall figure to nearly 365,000, the Obama administration said on Wednesday. The November number was more than double the one for October, but still well below the administration’s goal (Pear, 12/11).

The Washington Post: Sebelius: Enrollment Up With Improving; Review Of Problems Launched
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday that the ailing health insurance Web site was improving thanks to "relentless" efforts to work out the bugs, and she cited an uptick in enrollment as evidence that the program is back on track after a false start. But she told a congressional panel she has launched an investigation into what policies and management failures may have contributed to the initial failures of, the main portal for people in 36 states to buy private insurance plans under the health-care law (Somashekhar and Goldstein, 12/11).

Politico: Kathleen Sebelius Takeaways: 1 Cranky Hearing
What’s the one thing worse than taking fire from Congress in a crowded hearing room? Taking fire from really cranky members of Congress in a half-empty hearing room. That’s what Kathleen Sebelius went through on Wednesday, as she parried Obamacare questions from a House subcommittee while much of Washington had moved on to other things. But in the hearing room, the Obamacare tensions were as high as ever, with Republicans and Democrats snapping at each other and one GOP lawmaker griping that trying to get answers out of the Health and Human Services secretary was like talking to North Korea (Nather, 12/11).

The Wall Street Journal: Sebelius Calls For Review Of Contracting Practices
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, responding to the botched launch of the health-insurance website, said Wednesday she has called for a review of contracting practices and a new official to oversee risk. Mrs. Sebelius testified again on Capitol Hill Wednesday and faced questions from House Republicans about issues that have plagued the rollout of President Barack Obama's health law. Lawmakers raised concerns about the security of consumer data, the cancellation of millions of health policies, limited networks of doctors and hospitals and higher-than-expected premiums (Schatz, 12/11).

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Sebelius Asks Inspector General To Probe Website Problems
Kaiser Health News’ Mary Agnes Carey and CQ Roll Call's Emily Ethridge discuss HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' testimony on Capitol Hill Wednesday, which included updates on steps officials are taking to repair the health law's online insurance exchange (12/11). Read the transcript or listen to the conversation.

CQ HealthBeat: Sebelius: Troubled Federal Health Website Needed Slower Launch, More Testing
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told House lawmakers Wednesday she is “not sure” whether it would have been better to delay the launch of the flawed federal health care exchange website (Ethridge, 12/11).

McClatchy: With Website Working, Sebelius’ Capitol Hill Hot Seat Cools Down A Little
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has asked her department’s inspector general, Daniel Levinson, to review the contracting and project management problems that led to the bungled rollout of the website. The move is one of three new initiatives Sebelius announced Wednesday morning in a blog post and during testimony before the health subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The directives come on the heels of new figures that show enrollments quadrupled from October to November (Pugh, 12/11).

CNN: Sebelius Orders Review Of Obamacare Website Woes
Hours ahead of her appearance Wednesday before a House subcommittee certain to grill her on the botched launch of the Obamacare website, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced an internal review of what happened and why. Then her department released the latest enrollment figures for President Barack Obama's signature health care reforms, showing a big increase in November after the site's problem-plagued rollout on October 1. The moves appeared timed to blunt criticism by the Republican-led House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health of the reforms known as Obamacare and Sebelius, the Cabinet Secretary in charge of implementing them (Cohen, 12/11).

Los Angeles Times: Obamacare Sign-Ups Continue To Increase
Growing numbers of Americans are signing up for insurance through President Obama's health law, with more than 250,000 selecting a plan in November, according to a new government report. That is more than double the number in October, when problems with the new website made enrollment virtually impossible in most states for long stretches of time (Levey, 12/11).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Care Sign-Ups Pick Up But May Not Close Gap
With time running short, the nation’s health care rolls still aren’t filling up fast enough. New sign-up numbers Wednesday showed progress for President Barack Obama’s health care law, but not enough to guarantee that Americans who want and need coverage by Jan. 1 will be able to get it. Crunch time is now, as people face a Dec. 23 deadline to sign up if they are to have coverage by New Year’s (12/11).

ABC News: Sebelius: Back End Of HealthCare.Gov Will Be Ready In Mid-January
Some back-end portions of won't be fully functional until mid-January, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Congress Wednesday, but she assured them that customers enrolled on the federal website will get full coverage -- and their promised subsidies -- starting on January 1. "The financial management system, which is getting the insurance companies their money for accelerated tax credits and cost-sharing, is due to go into effect in mid-January," Sebelius told a subpanel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. She explained, "This is reimbursing insurance companies -- it has nothing to do with enrollment” (Condon, 12/11).

The Fiscal Times: Sebelius Twice Grilled…Still Not Well Done
If congressional hearings were like baseball games, the Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee would have struck out swinging during their questioning of Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius in Tuesday’s hearing on Obamacare implementation. Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA) opened the questioning by complaining that while President Obama had once promised that average Americans’ insurance premiums would go down under Obamacare, some people were seeing premiums go up. Sebelius seemed in a forgiving mood in the early stage of the hearing – and as a result, she failed to define the term “average” for the congressman (Garver, 12/11).

The Wall Street Journal: White House Works To Attract Younger Health-Plan Users
New enrollment figures show health-insurance exchanges nationwide are attracting more customers, but the Obama administration said that it has more work to do to get enough younger, healthy people into the system. The administration said Wednesday that as of Nov. 30, nearly 365,000 people nationwide had selected private health plans in the exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act—sharply up from October, but still far from the seven million level officials are hoping to achieve by March 31. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius faced renewed criticism of the health-care law's rollout at a House hearing Wednesday. Republicans suggested the plans on offer are a bad deal for many Americans, pointing to problems such as limited networks of doctors and hospitals, and higher-than-expected premiums (Schatz, 12/11).

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