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Medicare Chief Apologizes To House Panel Over Website

A top Obama administration official is apologizing for the problems that have kept Americans from successfully signing up for coverage at the government’s health care website.

 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner testifies before the House Ways and Means Committee
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner testifies before the House Ways and Means Committee (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Marilyn Tavenner, the head of the Medicare program, told a House panel that “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Tavenner is the first senior official to publicly answer questions from lawmakers. She’s being grilled not only on what went wrong with HealthCare.gov, but also whether lawmakers can rely on promises to have things running efficiently by the end of November.

The Medicare chief told lawmakers that improvements are happening daily.

Her appearance followed last week’s testimony from outside contractors who said there hadn’t been enough time to test the complex online enrollment system. It froze up on the day it was launched, October first.

The Republican who heads the House Ways and Means Committee, Dave Camp of Michigan, is asking whether it’s fair for the IRS to impose penalties on those who don’t sign up for health care, if people “can’t navigate” what he calls a “dysfunctional and overly complex system.”

Obama admin. lowers health sign-up expectations

  (L-R) Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) listen to testimony from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner during a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee
(L-R) Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) listen to testimony from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner during a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Obama administration is trying to lower expectations for strong initial enrollments under the president’s historic expansion of health coverage for the medically uninsured.

An internal memo obtained by The Associated Press shows that the administration expected nearly 500,000 people to gain coverage just in October, the program’s first month. Tavenner repeatedly declined to cite enrollment numbers, saying they will not be provided until mid-November.

House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, drew his own conclusion. He told Tavenner that by his math, the administration appears headed for less than a fourth of its October sign-up estimate.


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)

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