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PPACA website repair work will continue, says White House

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During the daily televised White House press conference on resolving the debt ceiling stand off and ending the U.S. government shutdown, the WHite House press secretary said the president welcomes the bipartisan Senate agreement and denied that the White House-supported compromise is one that holds the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) ransom, as one reporter phrased it. 

The agreement reached between Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, only gave a fraction of an inch on the  stronghold of the PPACA law, which Republicans still want gutted. 

For now, under the tiny compromise, the only concession is that there will be a mechanism for ensuring eligibility –basically, income verification — among those that sign up for health care on the exchanges, press reports declared breathlessly today. That is down from the Tea Party’s staunch demand for complete repeal to talk of a delay of PPACA’s transitional reinsurance provision.

Insurer interests “immediately contacted the White House and Senate negotiators to raise concerns” about the reinsurance delay, stating that insurers have already reduced 2014 premiums about 10 percent on average because of these reinsurance payments, according to a memo by Scott Serota, chief executive officer of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). The concession was thrown out, leaving only the eligibility requirement in, the only thing Republicans got from the debt ceiling brinksmanship.

“Ransom would be a wholly different thing,” White House press secretary Jay Carney stated at the afternoon press briefing Oct. 11. However, McConnell said in his statement today that efforts to repeal PPACA would continue.

“Throughout this debate, the public has been rightly focused on Obamacare — for good reason. This law is ravaging our economy, killing jobs, driving up premiums, and driving people off the health care plans they have and like, in droves. Its disastrous rollout is a sign of even worse things to come. And the Democrat refusal to delay it reflects a stubborn ideological obsession that will do untold damage to our country. And Republicans remain determined to repeal this terrible law. But for today, the relief we hope for is to reopen the government, avoid default, and protect the historic cuts we achieved under the BCA (Budget Control Act). This is far less than many of us had hoped for. But it’s far better than what some had sought,” Mitch McConnell stated.

A bill must be passed by the House and sent to the President today — or by tomorrow at the latest — for the deal to be sealed.

Carney also delved into the PPACA exchange technical website sign-up issues, when pressed, and owned up to the technical problems. 

“We are two weeks into the implementation” of the health insurance exchange, Carney said. But, he added that “health care reform is more than a web site… the glitches are unacceptable,” he said, “but so is leaving the uninsured on their own.” 

The volume to the call centers and online “reflects the fact that interest is extremely high and it continues to be extremely high,” Carney said. He said the public can expect to have enrollment numbers on a monthly basis and to check back in mid-November. Carney noted that the Administration is working on fixing the issues with the website.

Some state exchange sites have been working reasonably well and, according to officials, have processed close to 100,000 applications since the sites opened for business Oct. 1. But sites in other state-run jurisdictions, such as Vermont and Hawaii, have also had trouble taking and processing applications.

Health insurers are pitching in, as well. Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plan, and BCBSA’s Serota said Monday in a joint statement that “experienced systems experts from across the industry” are working with exchange managers to address operational issues.

Meanwhile, Carney said, tomorrow is the last day the Treasury can borrow money. 

“Flirting with default” creates costs to the American government and thus the American taxpayer. There is no upside. This is not a run-of-the-mill policy debate. This is  something that goes to the heart of Americans economic strength, Carney warned. 

People around the world invest in the United States and  they don’t have to, Carney reminded.

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