Health secretary Kathleen Sebelius made her second appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Committee today to answer questions about Healthcare.gov and other aspects of the implementation of health care reform.
The number of Americans who have enrolled still falls far short of targets, in part because the website was largely unusable at first. Less than 365,000 Americans have enrolled in plans through the federal marketplace and the state exchanges.
When asked whether she would have delayed the launch of the website knowing what she knows now, Sebelius couldn't say. "I certainly wish we could have saved millions of people a very frustrating experience and had a smoother tech launch," she says. "On balance I'm not sure what the right answer is."
"I'm not sure what the right answer is."
The hearing covered mostly the same issues that have been dredged up in previous hearings and in the media. Republican members grilled the secretary on problems with the website, unexpected plan cancellations, and whether Americans will be enrolled starting January 1st.
The secretary did give an updated number on the cost of the website, which changes depending on who you ask. The department's figures, which Sebelius says have been audited, show that the government has spent $319 million of $677 million obligated for IT work on Healthcare.gov.
The secretary has also turned her attention on preventing Healthcare.gov-type fiascos in the future. Today she called on the department's Inspector General to investigate the "the structural and managerial policies that led to the flawed launch of HealthCare.gov," with special attention paid to the convoluted process of selecting contractors.
She has also asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that oversaw the website, to appoint a Chief Risk Officer. Last, Sebelius called on CMS to update its employee training on best practices for contractor and procurement management.
The government has spent $319 million of $677 million obligated for Healthcare.gov, Sebelius says
The federal insurance marketplace had a very bumpy launch but is now reportedly functioning for most people. Still, 10 percent of the applications processed through Healthcare.gov and sent to insurance companies contain errors, and there are also questions about the site's security.