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Sebelius says no enrollment data available

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The head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) refused today to provide data on federal exchange plan enrollment activity until mid-November.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said today at a House hearing on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) public exchange program implementation that the department has no good enrollment data.

“The system isn’t functioning, so we’re not getting that data,” Sebelius told Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., at the hearing, which was organized by the House Energy & Commerce Committee. 

See also: Sebelius apologizes for PPACA rollout

Terry and Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, said they had heard reports that many of the insurers participating in the federal health insurance exchanges run by HHS do have application and enrollment data.

Terry and Burgess asked Sebelius to give insurers permission to release their own exchange data. Sebelius said that getting reliable data is a priority, but that HHS cannot allow the release of enrollment data until the data is reliable.

“I don’t want to turn over anything that’s not confirmed and reliable,” Sebelius said.

Burgess asked Sebelius for data on federal exchange applications submitted through the telephone or through paper applications. Sebelius said HHS cannot provide that data because the data for the call center and paper applications go through the same system as the Web applications.

Burgess also asked Sebelius to call for the resignation of Gary Cohen, the director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. Cohen testified at House hearings, including a Sept. 30 House Energy subcommittee hearing, that he thought the exchange program might start a little slowly but that the enrollment system would be ready to start Oct. 1.

“He’s repeatedly come before this committee and misled us,” Burgess said.

In response to the question about whether Sebelius would call for Cohen’s resignation, she told Burgess, “I will not.”  

Sebelius also declined to say that she could press Jeffrey Zients, the official now leading efforts to fix the enrollment system, to appear at committee hearings.

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