She could avoid the public no longer. After attempting to dodge responsibility for the failure of Healthcare.gov, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius finally testified before a congressional committee this morning.
To her credit, Kathleen “Death Panel” Sebelius did come out and apologize to the American people: “You deserve better. I apologize. I'm accountable to you.” Later during an exchange with Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Sebelius was forced again to state, “Hold me accountable for this debacle. I'm responsible.”
But that still doesn't make up for the fact that the rollout was a foreseen disaster and that the law continues to negatively impact Americans.
It was very evident that each side came to this hearing with an agenda. Republicans wanted to focus on those millions of Americans losing coverage because of Obamacare regulations, and Democrats wanted to use the opportunity to tout the supposed benefits of Obamacare and bash Republicans for their opposition to the law.
Sebelius went as far as to say that the website itself has “never crashed,” which was comical considering that Healthcare.gov was down during Sebelius' testimony! She specifically named Verizon and the recent issue with their “cloud,” which she says has nothing to do with Healthcare.gov itself. But the fact remains that the site itself is deeply, deeply flawed. It wasn't properly tested. Blaming Verizon's issues or contractors may be convenient but it doesn't speak to the fact that those in government who were ultimately responsible rolling out this site failed miserably. They weren't realistic about their expectations of what the site could offer and a reasonable timeline to complete the project. Website developer Stephan Hilbelink has a piece that explains five key reasons why the administration should get the majority of the blame for the poor website rollout, not the contractors. Last week three Obamacare website contractors testified in Congress and pointed to the failures of last-minute testing, yet the decision to launch the site nonetheless was made by government officials at CMS.
We know for a fact that this administration was warned at least a month ahead of time that the site would not be ready for launch, according to a CGI memo obtained by CNN. Yet this administration will maintain that it didn't know. How is that possible? Someone is not telling the truth here. I'm inclined to believe the contractor in this case. This administration has given me absolutely no reason to trust them. Obama claims ignorance on so many issues, his administration refuses to claim responsibility for nearly anything and now we know that they have blatantly lied to us in order to advance their agenda.
Sebelius refused to admit that Obamacare is the reason why millions of Americans are losing their current health insurance. She continuously pointed to the “grandfather” clause of Obamacare, refusing to acknowledge reality. That also doesn't explain the leaked document from 2010 pointing out that the administration was aware that “grandfathering” would still result in a loss of current coverage.
She also took a dig at the media (NBC, no less) for “not being accurate” in reporting on Obamacare's impact on current health coverage. When questioned about the four pinnochios from the Washington Post on the administration's promise that if we liked our healthcare plan, we could keep it, Sebelius still managed to dodge the issue.
Sebelius also did not have any data to present to the committee and the American people about enrollment figures into the exchanges. We are told we will have that data sometime in November and that the website should be functional for most Americans by the end of November. Fantastic. If it wasn't going to be fully functional for months, why did they still decide to launch? That's one of the biggest questions here and points to a failure of leadership within this administration.
But perhaps one of the more outrageous moments is when Sebelius told us that it's not helpful at this point to point fingers and to blame people. I whole-heartedly disagree. Holding the proper people accountable is absolutely imperative to maintaining the integrity of the system. Sebelius dodged and weaved many attempts to give specific names of people who were responsible for various decisions, but ultimately the buck stops with her. She acknowledged this fact: “hold me accountable,” she said. And we will. She says “the American people deserve better,” and she's right. We do. We deserve answers. We deserve accountability from our government officials.
Either Sebelius and her team knew that there were major problems, that the site likely wouldn't work, yet they proceeded anyway, or they were incompetent in believing that this site was ready for prime-time. Take your pick. Either choice doesn't bode well for Sebelius or this administration.
Meanwhile today the president is in Massachusetts (of all places) to tout his beloved healthcare law. Will he, too, apologize to the American people for this embarrassing rollout of his federal exchanges? I doubt it. This president has an amazing ability to shirk responsibility for nearly anything that happens. I also doubt he has the courage to ultimately hold people like Kathleen Sebelius responsible.
But he still has a tough sell. According to a new Republican poll, 70% of “registered voters” support delaying the individual mandate in the wake of problems with the rollout of Obamacare. So after all that, it turns out that the American people agree with those “wacko bird” Republicans who wanted to delay Obamacare.
These hearings arguably have made things worse for this administration because its incompetence was on full display for the American people.