KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Senate Dems Express Increasing Alarm Over Website Issues

With its first rocky month down, some say the most critical days are beginning for Meanwhile, the technical difficulties that have plagued the site are starting to chip away at the Democratic unity that has, so far, surrounded it. Some senators, for instance, are beginning to express concerns about its impact on the upcoming mid-term election and are calling for a delay in the individual mandate penalties if the website is not soon operational.

ProPublica: A Month In To Healthcare.Gov, Real-Life Winners and Losers
Today marks one month since the disastrous start of, the seriously impaired federal health insurance marketplace. And what a month it's been (Ornstein, 11/1).

The Wall Street Journal: Critical Weeks Begin For Health Law Rollout
A potentially decisive month for the Affordable Care Act is beginning, with the Obama administration racing to meet its target of getting its health-insurance website functioning normally by the end of November. As a notice on the website suggests, normalcy is still a ways off.  The site's core function–allowing people to sign up for health insurance–"isn't available from approximately 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. EST daily while we make improvements," says the notice (Paletta, 11/3).

The Wall Street Journal: Officials Rebuff Call To Suspend Health Site
The Obama administration said Sunday it had rejected a call from a senior Democratic senator to shut down until it is fully fixed, saying that wouldn't help the government team racing to have the website up to scratch by the end of the month. November is developing into a challenging month for the administration, which is likely to face calls for more far-reaching changes to the Affordable Care Act if it can't get in shape by Nov. 30. Some Democrats have said that if the site isn't fixed soon, they would act to delay the law's requirement that most Americans carry health insurance in 2014 or pay a tax penalty (Radnofsky and Paletta, 11/3).

Politico: Max Baucus: Delay Obamacare Penalties If Website Still Lags
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus says Congress would need to consider delaying Obamacare’s penalties if the website is not repaired, but he said such conversations are "premature" at this point. "If it looks like Humpty Dumpty isn’t getting good, back together, maybe we should start thinking about delaying the penalties," Baucus (D-Mont.) told News Talk 730 radio in Billings, Mont. But Baucus, one of the chief authors of the law, said he’d rather just see repaired (Haberkorn, 11/4).

The Hill: Baucus: ObamaCare Site Is 'Humpty Dumpty'
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mt.) said Friday the penalty for the individual mandate should be delayed if the "Humpty Dumpty" ObamaCare website can't be put back together again. "I think it makes better sense to see how much of this can be put together, how much Humpty Dumpty can be fixed in the next month," Baucus said in an interview with Scott Fredericks of NewsTalk 730 KYYA (Easley, 11/1). 

CBS News: Take HealthCare.Gov Offline Until It Is Fixed, Feinstein And Rogers Say
Both Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that the website should go offline until it is fully functional. The website has been plagued by problems since its Oct. 1 launch. Earlier this month, President Obama appointed former CEO Jeffrey Zients, one of his economic advisors, to lead a "tech surge" intended to fix the site by the end of November. "It's pretty clear, I think, to those of us who have been watching this rollout, that the technological base was not sufficient, and that the website didn't function," said Feinstein, who added that she told White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough that she thought the administration should take the site down "until it was right” (Kaplan, 11/3).

Politico: Senate Dems To W.H.: Fix Obamacare
Democratic senators have a warning for the White House: Fix Obamacare's problems or put Senate seats at risk next year. In interviews, Democratic senators running in 2014, party elders and Senate leaders said the Obama administration must rescue the law from its rocky start before it emerges as a bigger political liability next year (Raju, 11/3).

Bloomberg: Health Site Flaws Test Democrats' Unity As Attacks Rise
Senate Democrats will get to question the administrators of President Barack Obama's flawed health-care website next week amid mounting anxiety that may test their party's unity. Democratic senators shot questions at White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and other officials responsible for the website at a lunch at the Capitol Oct. 30, said a Senate Democratic aide (Dorning and Hunter, 11/2).

ABC News: Obamacare Paper, Phone, Web Apps 'Stuck In The Same Queue,' Memos Note
A series of internal Obama administration memos obtained exclusively by ABC News reveal for the first time how dysfunction with has upended the entire Affordable Care Act enrollment process, including applications by paper and phone that officials have been pushing as more reliable alternatives. "The same portal is used to determine eligibility no matter how the application is submitted (paper, online)," reads a Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight memo from Oct. 11. "The paper applications allow people to feel like they are moving forward in the process and provides another option," it says. "At the end of the day, we are all stuck in the same queue" (Dwyer and Karl, 11/4).

The efforts to fix the site continued over the weekend when officials took the site down.

Reuters: Obamacare Website To Be Down Again For Maintenance Late Saturday
The glitch-ridden website used to sign up for insurance under President Barack Obama's healthcare law will be down for "extended maintenance" overnight on Saturday, the Department of Health and Human Services said. The website has been plagued by technology problems and has not worked reliably since its launch on October 1, embarrassing the administration and providing ammunition for Republicans seeking to roll back the law known as Obamacare (Rampton, 11/2).

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