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Life Health > Health Insurance

Lawmakers still want numbers

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House Republicans are still trying to get the Obama administration to release information about how the federal exchange enrollment site is doing.

Questions about site activity came up several times today during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchange program implementation.

Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), was the only witness.

Managers of most state-based PPACA public exchanges have released reports on the number of visitors to enrollment sites, the number of applications started or completed, the number of applications processed, and, in some cases, the number of consumers who have actually enrolled in coverage through the sites.

CMS, the arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) overseeing the exchanges run by HHS, has released no clear information about since the enrollment system opened to the public Oct. 1.

“We will release our metrics in mid-November,” Tavenner said.

Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., asked Tavenner who in the administration had decided to wait until mid-November to release site data.

“This was a group decision,” Tavenner said. Tavenner declined to name other people involved in that decision. She said the group included members of the White House budget office and domestic policy staff. 

Tavenner said CMS now believes it can have working smoothly most of the time by the end of November.

One lawmaker, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., read a list of answers Tavenner had given assuring lawmakers at earlier hearings that work was on track.

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, commented on Tavenner’s prediction that the site will work well in four weeks. “Why should the American people believe you now?” he asked.

Tavenner said most of the earlier site-related questions and most of her answers dealt with work on the “data services hub” at the heart of the exchange site. The hub has been working well, she said.

CMS can predict that it will have the site fixed in four weeks because it now understands how much capacity it needs, and has added the capacity, and because it now has a list of the functional glitches that have been interfering with site operations, Tavenner said.

Several Democrats at the hearing said Republicans’ strategy of killing PPACA at any cost was getting in the way of efforts to identify and fix problems.

Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., said to Tavenner of the Republicans, “Do you understand that they don’t want you to succeed? We’re looking for problems to fix. They’re looking for problems to exploit.”

Tavenner declined to say what kind of patch CMS might offer if consumers without coverage still have trouble using to enroll in plans for 2014 after Dec. 15.

Consumers can enroll in coverage through call centers and in-person assisters, Tavenner said.

A CMS spokeswoman made similar comments during a press conference held later in the day.

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