Sebelius May Be Subpoenaed to Testify on Obamacare Rollout

October 18, 2013 - 5:43 AM

obamacare exchanges

A House Committee will ask HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to testify next week on the dysfunctional rollout of the Obamacare exchanges.

(CNSNews.com) - If Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has time to appear on a comedy show, she should make time to explain the flawed Obamacare rollout to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) said on Thursday.

The committee has scheduled an Oct. 24 hearing on the dysfunctional health exchanges, Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) announced on Thursday.

The formal title of the hearing is “PPACA Implementation Failures: Didn’t Know or Didn’t Disclose?”

"Witnesses will be announced and are by invitation only," the announcement said.

Rep. Lance says the committee particularly wants to hear from Sebelius.

"We could subpoena her," Lance told Fox News's Greta Van Susteren Thursday night.

"But usually, the way the system works is that the cabinet secretaries come before the committees of jurisdiction. Obviously, we have the ability to subpoena a cabinet officer. But I would hope that the secretary would come before the committee. Chairman Upton is a very fair person, a very fine chairman. And after all, the secretary has time for Jon Stewart. I think she should have time for those of us who serve in Congress on these critical questions of this dismal failure so far in the rollout."

Lance mentioned a Sept. 10 subcommittee hearing, where "we were assured that the system would work beginning October first. And obviously, those assurances were not accurate."

The problems that have prevented most Americans from logging on to healthcare.gov go beyond bad luck, Lance said. "But certainly, in the signature issue of this presidency, you would think they would have tested it and retested it before the rollout on October 1st. And they promised that it would work on October 1st. And, of course, it has not worked."

Beyond the website's design defects, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the new exchanges are generating flawed data for insurance companies, "straining their ability to handle even the trickle of enrollees who have gotten through so far."

On Thursday, the Journal reported that the failure of the online exchanges stems from deliberate political choices: HHS delayed key regulations and IT specifications until after the election to avoid Republican criticism, resulting in a rush job for IT workers.  

At the White House on Thursday, spokesman Jay Carney was asked why President Obama didn't include the Obamacare problems as one of his priority items.

"That's something obviously the administration is working on 24/7," Carney said. "The implementation of the Affordable Care Act is something that the administration is engaged in, including the effort to address the difficulties and glitches that have occurred with the website...and as I've done some in recent days, it's important to remind folks that even as there have been some challenges in enrolling through the website, those challenges are being addressed, and progress is being made, and people are enrolling across the country.

"We're going to keep working in this to make sure that the consumer experience is improved and that the interests of all those millions of Americans who have been exploring the options available to them through the new Affordable Care Act and the marketplaces will be rewarded with the opportunity to enroll for so many who have never had affordable health care options in the past."

Carney said the Affordable Care Act "is about to provide significantly more benefits to millions of Americans."

"We've seen it reported in newspapers across the country, where individuals who identify themselves as conservatives or Republicans, who oppose the president, didn't vote for him, maybe vote Republican in congressional and local elections, say that they're extremely happy with the fact that they now have affordable health care insurance options that they did not have before."

Carney said one of the reasons conservative Republicans tried to defund Obamacare "was because of the recognition that the implementation of the law would make it so much harder for opponents to overturn it in the future because so many millions of Americans would see that it is delivering on the promise of affordable health insurance for -- for them."