Top Obamacare official apologizes for website 'debacle'

Wed Oct 30, 2013 11:06am EDT
 
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By David Morgan and Anna Yukhananov

WASHINGTON Oct 30 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's top health official apologized on Wednesday for the botched rollout of the government's healthcare website, acknowledging it was a "debacle", while also blaming insurers for cancelling coverage for hundreds of thousands of people.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, testifying at a congressional hearing on the troubled website at the heart of Obama's healthcare overhaul, vowed to win back the confidence of millions of disappointed Americans.

"Hold me accountable for the debacle. I'm responsible," Sebelius said in response to questions from Marsha Blackburn, the Republican U.S. Representative of Tennessee, about who was responsible for problems that have prevented people from signing up for healthcare insurance plans.

Technical glitches have dogged the Healthcare.gov since its launch on Oct. 1, preventing many people from signing up for insurance plans. But critics of Obamacare have seized on the hundreds of thousands of Americans due to lose their current plans because they fail to include essential benefits required by the law and are asking whether Obama misrepresented the law.

Sebelius, the cabinet official spearheading the implementation of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, drew intense criticism from Republicans including Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Upton accused Obama of breaking a 2009 promise that people with insurance could keep their current plans.

"They are now receiving termination notices, and for those who lose the coverage they like, they may also be losing faith in their government," the Michigan Republican said.

Sebelius defended the administration by describing hundreds of thousands who have received cancellation notices as the victims of a market long known for discriminating against the sick, cancelling policies and selling inadequate insurance.

"The individual market ... anywhere in the country has never had consumer protections. People are on their own. They can be locked out, priced out, dumped out," by insurers, Sebelius said.   Continued...