- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 30, 2013

President Obama’s top health care official apologized Wednesday for the broken Obamacare website and said it would take another month to fix — but even as she defended the law as a good deal for most Americans, she said there was no reason for her to have to purchase coverage from the exchanges.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also was on the defensive over Mr. Obama’s 2010 vow that his health care program wouldn’t force Americans out of their existing insurance.

Mr. Obama waded into that fight late in the day, using a campaign-style speech in Boston to parse his promise, saying that while some may be kicked off their plans, they will end up getting better deals from their insurance companies.

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“One of the things health reform was designed to do was to help not only the uninsured but also the underinsured,” Mr. Obama said. “Before the Affordable Care Act, the worst of these [health care] plans routinely dropped thousands of Americans every single year. This wasn’t just bad for the folks who had these policies, it was bad for all of us because when tragedy strikes and folks can’t pay their medical bills, everybody else picks up the tab.”

Both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Sebelius said they take ultimate blame for the early problems with the HealthCare.gov website, which was supposed to be the main way for many Americans to buy insurance from state-based health car exchanges. The site went live Oct. 1 but has been plagued by glitches. It crashed even as Mrs. Sebelius was testifying to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday morning.

Cathey Park of Cambridge, Mass., points to her "I Love Obamacare" cast just signed by President Barack Obama after he spoke at Boston's historic Faneuil Hall about the federal health care law, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013. Faneuil Hall is where former Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, Obama's rival in the 2012 presidential election, signed the state's landmark health care law in 2006, with top Democrats standing by his side. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Cathey Park of Cambridge, Mass., points to her “I Love Obamacare” cast ... more >

“Hold me accountable for the debacle. I’m responsible,” Mrs. Sebelius told angry Republicans during her appearance, which marked the first time she has answered to Congress for the website’s problems.

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Calls for Mrs. Sebelius to resign took a back seat to complaints about who knew what — and when — about the flawed website and stories of constituents who have lost their health care plans and could face higher premiums.

Lawmakers also relied on backhanded humor and personal challenges to make their points.

Rep. Cory Gardner, Colorado Republican, wanted to know if Mrs. Sebelius would enroll herself in a health care plan on one of the Obamacare exchanges.

She refused because she has employer-based coverage from the federal government.

“I would gladly join the exchange if I didn’t have affordable coverage in my workplace,” she testified.

But Mrs. Sebelius appeared to confuse the law when she told lawmakers, “If I have available employer-based coverage, I am not eligible for the market.”

HealthCare.gov tells users that if they are eligible for job-based insurance, they “can consider switching to a marketplace plan” but may put their subsidies at risk.

The site says “you won’t qualify for lower costs based on your income unless the job-based insurance is unaffordable or doesn’t meet minimum requirements. You also may lose any contribution your employer makes to your premiums.”

Mrs. Sebelius gave her testimony a day after one of her agency chiefs, Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, testified to another House committee.

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