News / USA

Republicans Seek to Expose Obamacare's Flawed Launch

Public health office staff members in Champaign, Illinois, work with people trying to sign up for health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, October 1, 2013.
Public health office staff members in Champaign, Illinois, work with people trying to sign up for health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, October 1, 2013.
Reuters
After a bruising defeat over Obamacare in the government shutdown, Republicans hope to regain momentum by exposing how President Barack Obama's administration ran aground trying to launch his signature healthcare reform law.
 
Three Republican-led committees in the House of Representatives are investigating the technical flaws that have hobbled Healthcare.gov, a federal website meant to help millions of Americans in 36 states sign up for health insurance benefits, since its launch on Oct. 1.
 
The administration says the site has been overwhelmed in the past three weeks by interest from nearly 20 million people who have exacerbated underlying problems with the system, adding that it has brought in top technology experts to fix it.
 
The House Energy and Commerce Committee will be the first to hold the administration and its contractors to account, with a hearing set on Thursday that will feature sworn testimony from four contractors including website developer CGI Federal.
 
Committee Chairman Fred Upton told Reuters the session would focus on whether the contractors who built the site warned the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) about troubles ahead of the launch, and whether HHS made sufficient inquiries on how the work was progressing.
 
“Our goal is to get to the bottom of this,” Upton said in an interview.
 
He contends that the rollout failed because the administration delayed moving ahead with important implementation steps until after Obama emerged as victor in the 2012 presidential election.
 
“It was a political decision, and that delay cost everything,” he said.
 
Republicans also blame the site's problems on a design that required users to create accounts and check their eligibility for government subsidies before showing them the cost of new insurance plans and other details such as whether their doctor would be included in coverage.
 
“They didn't want people to figure out that all these broken promises - whether keeping your physician or your plan or that [insurance] rates would go down instead of going up - they wanted to keep that all away from getting exposed. And that delay has cost them big in terms of having a successful rollout,” Upton said.
 
Political advantage

 
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew (L) listens as Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaks about Social Security and Medicare, Washington, May 31, 2013.Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew (L) listens as Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaks about Social Security and Medicare, Washington, May 31, 2013.
x
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew (L) listens as Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaks about Social Security and Medicare, Washington, May 31, 2013.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew (L) listens as Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaks about Social Security and Medicare, Washington, May 31, 2013.
Upton's panel will take sworn testimony from U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius six days after it questions the contractors.
 
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa also is seeking answers about White House involvement in decisions about Healthcare.gov.
 
Meanwhile the House Ways and Means Committee has announced an Oct. 29 hearing with Marilyn Tavenner, who heads the HHS agency overseeing implementation.
 
Republican lawmakers and congressional aides say the oversight push is part of an effort to regain the political advantage on Obamacare after a 16-day government shutdown in which the party failed to derail the law while driving their own poll numbers sharply lower.
 
They said the plan is to focus on specific weaknesses in the law including the troubled rollout, the law's effect on health care costs, concerns about identify theft, subsidy fraud and reduced hours for workers. The aim is to highlight problems they say the Affordable Care Act poses for ordinary Americans.
 
Tea Party movement supporters say they will continue to press for delays in the individual mandate and a measure that would deny federal health care subsidies for congressional staff.
 
By contrast, the Democratic-controlled Senate has called no hearings on Obamacare so far. But an administration official was scheduled to brief House Democrats on the rollout on Wednesday.
 
“While we appreciate House Republicans' newfound interest in the implementation of health reform, it is clear they are not interested in anything other than continuing their desperate drive to sabotage this law, which so far has included shutting down the government,” said Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
 
Targeted strikes

 
House Speaker John Boehner has also called for “smart, targeted strikes” aimed at splitting the unity that Democrats demonstrated in their showdown with Republicans over the debt ceiling.
 
Aides say the idea is to pressure Democrats from conservative states into backing Republican bills to delay or dismantle parts of the law, by playing up problems in their home districts that could be blamed on Obamacare's flaws.
 
Republican strategists believe that using Obamacare's flaws to hurt Democratic lawmakers could also help Republicans realize their 2014 election goal of winning Senate control. Potentially vulnerable Democrats include Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.
 
“At some point, the message should sink in that the law's hurting their constituents. If that happens, hopefully they'll see that they need to break party ranks and support change or suffer tremendous consequences in 2014,” said Dan Holler of Heritage Action for America, the conservative advocacy group linked to the Heritage Foundation.
 
A renewed Republican focus on the law's implementation could be an unwelcome distraction for the administration, which has until mid-November to iron out the rollout problems or risk jeopardizing its goal of signing up 7 million uninsured people for coverage in 2014.
 
The missteps already have led to Republican calls for the resignation of Sebelius.
 
But the 16-day government shutdown that exposed a bitter division between diehard Tea Party conservatives and other Republicans has raised concerns about the dangers of further overreach.
 
“They blew their platform for this discussion and now they need to refocus selectively on the most compelling things,” said Republican strategist Jennifer Millerwise Dyck.
 
“Anything that comes across as an overreach for fixing Obamacare is going to fail,” she said. “Wasting time and money on the impossible will be met with complete disdain from the American people, especially after the circus we just saw.”
 
Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which has spent $12 million on opposition TV ads aimed at deterring enrollment in nine states since mid-summer, is contemplating a new media push that specifically targets the rollout.
 
“We want to make sure that the maximum exposure is given to all of the boondoggles and stunning incompetence of the rollout,” said AFP president Tim Phillips.

You May Like

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs