Wednesday, April 23, 2014
By Lisa Mascaro
WASHINGTON — Just six enrollments occurred on the opening day for healthcare.gov, the troubled Obamacare website, according to documents released late Thursday by a House oversight committee.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, obtained the tally from meeting notes compiled by officials inside the “war room” at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which was overseeing the rollout of the insurance marketplace.
The White House has declined to say how many people have signed up in the new health insurance marketplace, and Kathleen Sebelius, the Department of Health and Human Services secretary, testified this week that her department has not been able to collect accurate data.
Department spokeswoman Joanne Peters said late Thursday that the documents released by the committee “appear to be notes. They do not include official enrollment statistics.”
The department plans to release enrollment statistics “on a monthly basis” once reliable information is available, Peters said. “We are focused on providing reliable and accurate information and we do not have that at this time. ... We have always anticipated that the pace of enrollment will increase throughout the enrollment period,” she said.
Issa’s committee obtained the documents after requesting them from the contractors developing the website for the administration. The committee subpoenaed Sebelius on Thursday for additional documents, including those related to attempted and completed enrollments.
The administration said Thursday that dozens of computer engineers from top technology firms have been brought in as part of its “tech surge” to help fix the problems with the site.
The website where Americans can shop for health insurance is central to the new healthcare law, which mandates that all individuals carry policies by March 2014 or face a penalty. Since the site’s troubles became clear, officials have also noted that insurance can be sought over the phone or in person at facilities helping to usher in the program.
According to the notes obtained by Issa’s committee, six enrollments happened on Oct. 1. On the next day, there were 248. Officials hope to enroll 7 million people for coverage next year.
Obama stood behind his signature law this week, reminding Americans of the benefits, including provisions that prohibit companies from denying coverage for people with preexisting medical conditions.
In a congressional hearing on Wednesday, Sebelius apologized for botched debut, taking responsibility as the administration scrambles to get the site running properly. The administration has promised to have the site running smoothly by the end of the month.