U.S. agency says working on plan for people hit by Obamacare rollout

Tue Nov 5, 2013 12:51pm EST
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By David Morgan and Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON Nov 5 (Reuters) - The Obama administration, beset by criticism over the botched opening of its new healthcare insurance website, says it is working on a plan to appease hundreds of thousands of people whose coverage has been canceled and millions of others unable to enroll.

While much of the criticism has come from Republicans, on Tuesday the head of the agency in charge of implementing President Barack Obama's signature healthcare reform law also came under fire at a congressional hearing from a leading Democratic senator, who said public confidence had been undermined by the flawed launch of the HealthCare.gov website.

"There's been fear, doubt and a crisis of confidence," said Senator Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat. "What I worry about is that there's such a crisis of confidence that people won't enroll."

Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told a Senate oversight hearing, "We are working on a plan. This is actually a conversation we're having today ... Is there a way we can actively engage to reach out to people who have been cancelled."

Tavenner told the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee that the administration plans to start a four month-long media campaign in selected markets next month aimed at bringing back uninsured Americans, particularly young adults, who were unable to access HealthCare.gov after enrollment began on Oct. 1.

"Our goal is to stabilize the website this month and then we do have a targeted plan that includes not only young people but the large populations of the uninsured," Tavenner said.

The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was passed in Obama's first term and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last year. It mandates everyone have health insurance or pay a fine and created new online marketplaces for insurance plans. Republicans have opposed the program as an unwarranted expansion of the federal government.