File photo of the cost of health care
Hide Caption

Obama administration posts low health care signups

a a a a
Share this story

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The administration says fewer than 27,000 people managed to enroll for health insurance last month in the 36 states relying on the problem-filled federal website for President Barack Obama's overhaul.

The dismal numbers released Wednesday by federal health officials were even lower than estimates recently circulated. There was one bright spot: States running their own websites did better than the feds, reporting more than 79,000 sign-ups.

Even so, total private insurance enrollment after the first month of the health care rollout was only about one-fifth what the administration had expected during that time period.

Enrollment numbers totaled 106,185. A Sept. 5 administration estimate had projected that 494,620 people would enroll in the first month.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says she expects things to improve.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

After weeks of criticism over the balky rollout of the health care sign-up website, the Obama administration is releasing figures on how many people have successfully enrolled through the new federal insurance exchanges.

In advance, officials are lowering expectations for the numbers, given the widespread technical issues that have hampered the website since its Oct. 1 launch.

The tightly held numbers being released Wednesday are believed to amount to only a small fraction of the nearly 500,000 initial sign-ups that administration officials had projected before the healthcare.gov site went live.

The figures are expected to cover sign-ups that occurred in October, the first month of the six-month enrollment window. Officials say they expect enrollment to be heavier toward the end of that period.

The announcement was coming as congressional investigators held hearings into the technical issues behind the dysfunctional rollout of the website. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had a long list of issues: insufficient testing, possible security flaws, design shortcomings - even allegations of political meddling.

But there didn't seem to be a "smoking gun" behind the technical failure that has mortified supporters of President Barack Obama's health care law and cheered its opponents. The technology's cost to taxpayers: north of $600 million and climbing.

It was the sixth major congressional hearing since computerized insurance markets went live Oct. 1 and millions of consumers encountered frozen screens. The oversight committee was sharply divided along partisan lines.

"Established best practices of our government were not used in this case," said Issa. As a result, the law's promise of affordable health insurance "does not exist today in a meaningful way." Like other Republicans, Issa wants the law repealed, not fixed.

Ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland questioned Issa's fairness.

Addressing Issa directly, Cummings said: "Over the past month, instead of working in a bipartisan manner to improve the website, you've politicized this issue by repeatedly making unfounded allegations."

A key issue for Issa is why the administration required consumers to first create online accounts at HealthCare.gov before they could shop for health plans. That runs counter to the common e-commerce practice of allowing anonymous window-shopping. Outside experts say it increased the workload on a wobbly system.

Issa and other Republicans suspect a political motive; Democrats say the explanation has to do with technical issues. The shopping feature had its own glitches and would have compounded system problems.

The hearing featured Henry Chao, a little-known Medicare official, who had presented an overview of the enrollment system back in the spring, and commented then, "Let's just make sure it's not a third-world experience."

Chao is deputy chief information officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which also is leading the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. A career official who earlier helped implement the Medicare prescription drug benefit, he is widely seen as the operational official most knowledgeable about the health care law's online system.

Chao's public comment in March at an insurance industry forum was taken as an edgy joke, and he later joined the parade of administration officials who assured lawmakers that everything was on track for a smooth launch, even as nonpartisan experts from the congressional Government Accountability Office warned that could not be taken for granted.

Issa's investigators previously grilled Chao in a private session that lasted nine hours. Chao's name appears on a key Sept. 27 document authorizing the launch of the website despite incomplete security testing. But Issa's staff has released materials indicating that Chao was unaware of a memo earlier that month detailing unresolved security issues.

On Wednesday, Chao testified that he is confident that the system is secure.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The administration says fewer than 27,000 people managed to enroll for health insurance last month in the 36 states relying on the problem-filled federal website for President Barack Obama's overhaul.

The dismal numbers released Wednesday by federal health officials were even lower than estimates recently circulated. There was one bright spot: States running their own websites did better than the feds, reporting more than 79,000 sign-ups.

Even so, total private insurance enrollment after the first month of the health care rollout was only about one-fifth what the administration had expected during that time period.

Enrollment numbers totaled 106,185. A Sept. 5 administration estimate had projected that 494,620 people would enroll in the first month.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says she expects things to improve.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

After weeks of criticism over the balky rollout of the health care sign-up website, the Obama administration is releasing figures on how many people have successfully enrolled through the new federal insurance exchanges.

In advance, officials are lowering expectations for the numbers, given the widespread technical issues that have hampered the website since its Oct. 1 launch.

The tightly held numbers being released Wednesday are believed to amount to only a small fraction of the nearly 500,000 initial sign-ups that administration officials had projected before the healthcare.gov site went live.

The figures are expected to cover sign-ups that occurred in October, the first month of the six-month enrollment window. Officials say they expect enrollment to be heavier toward the end of that period.

The announcement was coming as congressional investigators held hearings into the technical issues behind the dysfunctional rollout of the website. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had a long list of issues: insufficient testing, possible security flaws, design shortcomings - even allegations of political meddling.

But there didn't seem to be a "smoking gun" behind the technical failure that has mortified supporters of President Barack Obama's health care law and cheered its opponents. The technology's cost to taxpayers: north of $600 million and climbing.

It was the sixth major congressional hearing since computerized insurance markets went live Oct. 1 and millions of consumers encountered frozen screens. The oversight committee was sharply divided along partisan lines.

"Established best practices of our government were not used in this case," said Issa. As a result, the law's promise of affordable health insurance "does not exist today in a meaningful way." Like other Republicans, Issa wants the law repealed, not fixed.

Ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland questioned Issa's fairness.

Addressing Issa directly, Cummings said: "Over the past month, instead of working in a bipartisan manner to improve the website, you've politicized this issue by repeatedly making unfounded allegations."

A key issue for Issa is why the administration required consumers to first create online accounts at HealthCare.gov before they could shop for health plans. That runs counter to the common e-commerce practice of allowing anonymous window-shopping. Outside experts say it increased the workload on a wobbly system.

Issa and other Republicans suspect a political motive; Democrats say the explanation has to do with technical issues. The shopping feature had its own glitches and would have compounded system problems.

The hearing featured Henry Chao, a little-known Medicare official, who had presented an overview of the enrollment system back in the spring, and commented then, "Let's just make sure it's not a third-world experience."

Chao is deputy chief information officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which also is leading the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. A career official who earlier helped implement the Medicare prescription drug benefit, he is widely seen as the operational official most knowledgeable about the health care law's online system.

Chao's public comment in March at an insurance industry forum was taken as an edgy joke, and he later joined the parade of administration officials who assured lawmakers that everything was on track for a smooth launch, even as nonpartisan experts from the congressional Government Accountability Office warned that could not be taken for granted.

Issa's investigators previously grilled Chao in a private session that lasted nine hours. Chao's name appears on a key Sept. 27 document authorizing the launch of the website despite incomplete security testing. But Issa's staff has released materials indicating that Chao was unaware of a memo earlier that month detailing unresolved security issues.

On Wednesday, Chao testified that he is confident that the system is secure.

Previous
1 2
Next

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Print this article

Comments

Hmm... It looks like you’re not a WCPO Insider. or Subscribe now to contribute!

More National News
Why are Americans obsessed with missing plane?
Why are Americans obsessed with missing plane?

From the disappearances of aviator Amelia Earhart to labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa, there's just something about a good mystery that…

Supreme Court to hear TV over Internet case
Supreme Court to hear TV over Internet case

Thirty years after failing to convince the Supreme Court of the threat posed by home video recordings, big media companies are back and now…

Teen survives in wheel well during Maui flight
Teen survives in wheel well during Maui flight

A 16-year-old boy stowed away in the wheel well of a flight from California to Hawaii on Sunday, surviving the trip halfway across the…

CO town mourns on 15th anniversary of Columbine
CO town mourns on 15th anniversary of Columbine

April 20 marks 15 years since the mass shooting that killed 12 students and teacher Dave Sanders at Columbine High School in Littleton.

Boston Marathon: Those that 'need to run'
Boston Marathon: Those that 'need to run'

In November, Boston Marathon organizers announced that about 500 bibs would be available for those "personally and profoundly impacted…

Boston Marathon course under tight security
Boston Marathon course under tight security

A year after a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs killed three people and wounded more than 260 others at the Boston Marathon, runners…

Fighter, advocate 'Hurricane' Carter dies at 76
Fighter, advocate 'Hurricane' Carter dies at 76

Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a one-time middleweight title contender whose murder convictions became an international symbol of racial…

Pot holiday '4/20' looks to go mainstream in CO
Pot holiday '4/20' looks to go mainstream in CO

Tens of thousands of revelers raised joints, pipes and vaporizer devices to the sky Sunday at a central Denver park in a defiant toast to the…

PD: Man pelts GF with eggs at Easter party
PD: Man pelts GF with eggs at Easter party

Pittsburgh police say a man threw hardboiled eggs at his girlfriend during an Easter egg decorating party, then tried to attack police.

Boston Strong for a cause: Team MR8 ready to run
Boston Strong for a cause: Team MR8 ready to run

The Boston Marathon has meant more to Fran Fidler than he can put into words.