Sebelius: 'We Do Not Have Any Reliable Data Around Enrollment'

By Susan Jones | October 30, 2013 | 10:13am EDT

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifying on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

( - Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius may have some idea how many people have signed up for Obamacare so far, but she says the number is not "reliable" so the administration has decided not to make the information public.

Sebelius also told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday that she expects the initial enrollment number to be small.

"We do not have any reliable data around enrollment, which is why we haven't given it to date."

Sebelius said she met with insurers last week and one of the "priority" fixes for the health care exchanges is the 834, the document that sends an individual's name to the insurance company for enrollment in an insurance plan.

"I want to give you reliable, confirmed data from every state and from the federal marketplace. We have said that we will do that on a monthly basis, by the middle of the month. You will have that data, but I don't want to turn over anything that is  not confirmed and reliable, and that's what we'll do."

But that data exists, Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) pressed Sebelius.

"But sir, I would tell you right now, it is not reliable data," Sebelius replied. "According to the insurance companies who are eager to have customers, they are not getting reliable data all the way through the system. It's one of the real problems that we have."

She said she knows that 700,000 people have applied online.

People shopping for insurance on the exchanges must fill out an application before enrolling in a plan, so the application number will be different from the enrollment number.

Sebelius also said she has low expectations for the initial enrollment numbers: "I think there's no question that given our flawed launch of, it will be a very small number."

Earlier Wednesday, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) told C-SPAN radio, "The administration apparently has made a decision not to disclose the numbers of people who have actually enrolled, except for on a monthly basis. I don't know why they've made that determination, but they've told us that as well."

Testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, Marilyn Tavenner, the head of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, repeatedly was asked how many people have enrolled. "We will not have those numbers available until mid-November," Tavenner said, using a similar phrase over and over again.

Tavenner also refused to say if she knows the enrollment number but is just not telling.

On Wednesday, DeGette said she doesn't think it's important to look at enrollment numbers on an hourly basis.

Degette said she, along with other members of Congress and their staffers, will get their health insurance on the D.C. health care exchange.

"So I've been shopping myself in the D.C. exchange with the different levels of health care plans. There are many plans that are available to people. And so just based on my experience, looking at all these plans, I haven't pushed send yet because I'm not exactly sure which plan I want to buy.

"And I suspect this is going on with a lot of the folks around the country, who are looking on the exchanges, trying to think about the plans -- the various choices of plans, and how much they're going to have to pay.

"And so I think what you'll see in early December -- I think you'll see a lot more people actually selecting the plans and signing up."

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