First Edition: October 25, 2013

Published on October 25, 2013 at 8:29 AM · No Comments

Today's headlines include reports and analyses of yesterday's Capitol Hill hearing, which featured website contractors talking about the troubled rollout of healthcare.gov. 

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Lawmakers Challenge Healthcare.gov Contractors On Website Problems
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey and Politico Pro's Jennifer Haberkorn discuss recent events on Capitol Hill. For more than four hours in a hearing Thursday, House Energy and Commerce Committee members grilled contractors who helped build the health law's problem-plagued online insurance marketplace (10/24). Read the transcript or listen to the conversation.

Kaiser Health News: A Reader Asks: I Don't Have Children, So Why Do I Have To Buy Pediatric Dental Insurance?
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers a question about pediatric dental insurance (10/25). Read the exchange.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Administration Says 700,000 Have Applied For Coverage; Medical Schools See Record Numbers Of Enrollees
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Phil Galewitz reports on administration estimates about how many people have sought insurance coverage: "The Obama administration said Thursday that 700,000 people have completed applications for coverage in the health law's new marketplaces -; a key step before people can begin shopping for insurance plans" (Galewitz, 10/24).

Also on Capsules, Ankita Rao reports that medical schools are experiencing a record level of enrollees: "About 20,000 students enrolled in medical school in 2013, around 2.8 percent more than the year before, according to the data distributed by the Association of American Medical Colleges on Thursday. First-time applications were also up by almost 6 percent" (Rao, 10/24). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Washington Post: Full Testing Of Healthcare.gov Began Too Late, Contractors Say
Private contractors in charge of building the federal online health insurance marketplace testified Thursday that the administration went ahead with the Oct. 1 launch of HealthCare.gov despite insufficient testing. In their first public remarks since the debut of the problem-ridden insurance exchange, executives of the main IT companies told members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that full tests of the Web site that should have been carried out months in advance, but began just two weeks before its rollout (Somashekhar and Goldstein, 10/24).

The New York Times: Contractors Describe Limited Testing of Insurance Web Site
Federal officials did not fully test the online health insurance marketplace until two weeks before it opened to the public on Oct. 1, contractors told Congress on Thursday. While individual components of the system were tested earlier, they said, the government did not conduct "end-to-end-testing" of the system until late September (Pear, 10/24).

Los Angeles Times: Health Website Contractors Acknowledge Late Changes, Limited Tests
Developers of the troubled Obamacare website confirmed Thursday that a last-minute decision requiring users to sign up before shopping for insurance caused the system to bottleneck and acknowledged they did not conduct an "end to end" test until just before this month's botched rollout. The federal contractors sought to shift responsibility for the more than $400-million project to the Obama administration, providing fuel for Republicans who want to kill the Affordable Care Act (Mascaro and Hennessey, 10/24).

The Wall Street Journal: Botched Launch Of Health Site Blamed On Poor Coordination
No one in the government made sure the many complex parts of the federal health-insurance website worked together properly, and testing of the complete site didn't take place until two weeks before its Oct. 1 launch, contractors said at the first congressional hearings into the matter. The website's botched launch has become the biggest threat to the success of President Barack Obama's health law, just days after Democrats beat back a Republican bid to defund it. More Democrats said Thursday that penalties on those who lack health insurance-;a linchpin of the law-;should be delayed because of the difficulties many people have had in navigating the site (Schatz, 10/25).

Politico: Contractors Grilled On The Hill
Top Obamacare contractors said Thursday they never recommended that the Obama administration delay the Oct. 1 launch of HealthCare.gov -; even though some of them harbored doubts about a website that would crash shortly after it went live. Republicans pressed four contractors appearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on why they had told Congress in September that Obamacare's online enrollment system was on track, only to go off the rails in October (Haberkorn and Millman, 10/24).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Contractors: Obama Admin. Left Little Time For Testing Health Care Site And Made Late Changes
Who's to blame? The first congressional hearing into what went wrong dug into issues of website architecture and testing protocols -; but also re-stoked the partisan battle over President Barack Obama's signature expansion of health coverage for millions of uninsured Americans. Republicans who've been trying to kill the program the past three years sounded outraged that it is being poorly carried out, while Democrats jeered them as political hypocrites (10/24).

Politico: Obamacare Website Hearing Takeaways: Missing Word Was 'Sorry'
So now we know the contractors' side of the Obamacare website debacle: They did a great job, the bad decisions weren't their fault, and they're fixing it. Thursday's standing-room-only hearing on the snakebit federal Obamacare enrollment website, HealthCare.gov, saw a parade of witnesses who weren't about to take responsibility for the disaster. We just do what the client asks, they said -; and in this case, the client was the Obama administration (Nather, 10/24).

The Washington Post's Post Politics: Pallone: House Health-Care Hearing A 'Monkey Court'
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) derided today's House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing as a "monkey court," accusing Republicans of exhibiting false concern during testimony and chastising them for raising security concerns that he said were specious. "You are trying to scare people so they won't apply," he said, adding that he believes the Republicans' true purpose is to undermine people's trust in the new health-care law so that it has to be delayed or repealed. His outburst came after two Republicans alleged that the federal marketplace does not adequately protect people's medical privacy (Somashekhar and Eilperin, 10/24).

USA Today/The Arizona Republic: Sebelius Promises Fixes To Health Care Site
As a congressional panel probed her agency's oversight of the federal health care website, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Thursday during a visit to Arizona that a team of government and private-sector technology experts are working around the clock to fix the problem-filled website. Following a tour of a Phoenix call center that handles enrollment and a community health center, Sebelius acknowledged that the website, Healthcare.gov, has not operated as seamlessly as she had hoped when it launched Oct. 1 (Alltucker, 10/25).

Politico: Kathleen Sebelius Hits Back At Critics
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took a swipe at those calling for her resignation over the troubled launch of the Obamacare enrollment site, saying she doesn't work for them. "The majority of people calling for me to resign, I would say, are people who I don't work for and do not want this program to work in the first place," Sebelius said Thursday during a press availability, according to the Associated Press (McCalmont, 10/25).

Politico: CMS Obamacare Briefing Day One: It's Getting Better
The Obama administration's tech "surge" to repair the Obamacare enrollment system may be more of a slow crawl -; but a senior official said Thursday she's confident the system will be running smoothly for consumers by mid-December. The agency quarterbacking the repair process told reporters Thursday that any fixes to HealthCare.gov would be "incremental." Consumers may not even detect them (Cheney, 10/24).

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