Online Federal Health Insurance Marketplace: Enrollment Challenges and the Path Forward

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Hearing Description:
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee questioned CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner on the status of Healthcare.gov and the Affordable Care Act. She relayed to the committee members the around the clock work being put into the website to get it stabilized. There is a media roll-out that will follow to encourage young people to sign up for health coverage.

Hearing Date: November 5, 2013

Hearing Summary: Prepared for AAPS by the Market Institute

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) recently met to question Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Marilyn Tavenner about the troubled launch of Healthcare.gov.

Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) recounted in his opening statement what he sees as the positives of the Affordable Care Act, like not denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. However, the website, has undergone it’s problems, but he is looking forward to resolution. Like his Republicans colleagues, he is concerned, but the hearing is meant to examine current issues and not blast the law. He is imploring everyone to take a deep breath and remember that the ACA is more than just a website.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said in his opening statement that even though President Obama had said if you want to keep your health insurance plan, you can, millions of policies are being cancelled. Obamacare needs to be turned around to right direction, more competition, more choices, and make Medicare solvent.

The lone witness, Marilyn Tavenner, Administrator at CMS, testified in her opening statement that Healthcare.gov will be fixed quickly and they are working around the clock to make improvements. They fully expect user experience to improve each week. There has been tremendous interest in the health coverage plans featured on the site. In order to meet demand, server size has been doubled. Response times are down to just seconds, instead of minutes. CMS has a commitment to the highest security standards and the website is no different. Security testing will always be done and thus far, there have been no issues. Since the inception of the ACA, there have been many positives stemming from it.

In response to questioning, Marilyn Tavenner said:

  • QSSI has been assigned as the lead administrator and engaged last week
  • They added server capacity almost immediately to meet demand
  • Software improvements include the establishment of an email account on the site
  • Software upgrades are being done several times a week
  • Insurance plans could be grandfathered as long as it did not reduce benefits significantly, but the cancellations that are occurring now are for plans that are substandard
  • The goal is to first stabilize the website, and then roll out a media (TV/radio/some print) plan to encourage young people and the uninsured to sign up
  • She personally told Secretary Sebelius in September that there would be certain modules delayed (SHOP, Spanish language site)
  • There was end to end security testing on the Hub prior to the launch of Healthcare.gov
  • Kentucky has been a successful state on Medicaid and the Exchange side
  • The sign-ups target for October/November is 800,000 people

Hearing Website:
http://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=62e55440-5056-a032-52e7-0b255f8da711

Testimony

Marilyn Tavenner, CMS Administrator
http://www.help.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Tavenner.pdf

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