WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior government official declined to say Tuesday if the administration will support legislation to fulfill President Barack Obama’s oft-stated promise that anyone who likes their health care plan will be able to keep it under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
Appearing before a Senate committee, Marilyn Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also said the HealthCare.gov PPACA exchange enrollment site has improved since its widely panned launch a month ago, and is still improving.
“Users can now successfully create an account and continue through the full application and enrollment process,” she said. We are now able to process nearly 17,000 registrants per hour, or 5 per second, with almost no errors.”
Republicans on the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee emphasized their longstanding criticism of the law, citing examples of cancellations and increased costs while raising questions about HealthCare.gov cyber-security.
One, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, asked if the administration would support legislation introduced in the Senate to allow individuals to retain their existing coverage if they want to. He recalled Obama’s pledge to that effect, first made in 2009.
In response, Tavenner said she hadn’t read the legislation, and took no position on it.
White House officials declined comment on Monday on similar bills introduced in both houses by other lawmakers.
During the hearing, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., had a poster displayed behind his seat saying, ‘Tip of the iceberg’ that showed a pale blue iceberg floating in water. Above the waterline, the iceberg was labeled ‘website failures.’ Below were examples of reported health care law problems including canceled coverage, higher co-pay and deductibles, premium increases and fraud and identify theft.
Committee Democrats were less pointed, although Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland cited consumer confusion.
“I think it’s very confusing about where you go,” she said. “I can tell you, people really don’t know, they really, really don’t know.”
Tavenner, who last week apologized to the public for the poor quality of the website in its earliest days, invited the public to go online for to see how it was now functioning.
“We are seeing improvements each week, and by the end of November, the experience on the site will be smooth for the vast majority of users,” she said.
Tavenner said the site would be “fully functioning” by the end of the month.