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House to grill Tavenner, Sebelius

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans plan to seek answers from Obama administration officials this week about the troubled start of the federal exchange plan enrollment website.

The House Way and Means Committee will bring Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in for a hearing on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) implementation at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee says Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will testimony at a hearing with the title “PPACA Implementation Failures: Answers from HHS” at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

GOP lawmakers said Sunday that the Obama administration will face pressure this week to be more forthcoming about how many people have actually succeeded in enrolling for coverage in the new insurance markets.

The enrollment system opened to the public Oct. 1.

An account creation system has been working poorly, limiting the ability of people to proceed to the point of actually trying to enroll in coverage.

On Sunday, the “federal data services hub” — a component of that system that has been working relatively well — experienced an outage. The hub, which helps federal and state-based exchanges verify the personal information of people applying for PPACA benefits, was down. CMS officials blamed the outage on a network failure at Terremark, a Verizon unit that’s hosting the site.

CMS officials said Monday that the problem had been resolved.

The problems with the rollout have led to calls on Capitol Hill for a delay of the PPACA penalties to be imposed on the uninsured in 2014. The first-year penalty for people who do not qualify for exemptions is either $95 or 1 percent of income, whichever is greater.

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