- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2014

President Obama’s top health officials said Tuesday they expect Congress to front the money needed to fund Obamacare’s federal marketplace in fiscal 2015 as they work to make HealthCare.gov operate better this fall.

The Health and Human Services Department said it needs a projected $1.8 billion to maintain the federally run exchange it operates on behalf of about three dozen states. The exchange is a web portal where consumers without health coverage can compare and purchase plans, often with the help of government subsidies.

About $1.2 billion of the funding will come from fees tied to Obamacare, while $600 million will be sought from Congress, officials said in HHS-specific comments about Mr. Obama’s new budget proposal.

“If Congress funds the president’s budget … this would fully fund the ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.

The agency also vowed to improve HealthCare.gov before the second round of open enrollment begins on Nov. 15, after software glitches and capacity issues ruined its Oct. 1 debut last year and nearly derailed the overhaul in its first year of implementation.

A “tech surge” of computer experts fixed the site by about December, and consumers have until March 31 to shop for plans on the portal.

Still, the government said the website could be better.

“Most of our work from April until the fall will be spent improving the consumer experience,” said Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

She said the agency will develop a “more consumer friendly application, one that’s a little easier to navigate.”