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Tom Howell Jr.

Tom Howell Jr.

Tom Howell Jr. covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at

Articles by Tom Howell Jr.

The main landing page of the website is pictured on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Department of Health and Human Services)

Obamacare enrollment by paper and phone is no better than website: report

Internal memos from the Obama administration suggest Obamacare's Web problems are holding up the entire enrollment process, including the phone and paper options that President Obama and top officials are pushing as an alternative to the troubled website, according to a report by ABC News. Published November 4, 2013

Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Stressing that improvements are happening daily, the senior Obama official closest to the administration's malfunctioning health care website apologized Tuesday for problems that have kept Americans from successfully signing up for coverage.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Medicaid preference could strap states under Obamacare

House Republicans suspect the White House has more Obamacare data than it is letting on, sparking a tug of war that is playing out amid fears that Medicaid enrollment could far outpace requests for private insurance under President Obama's program. Published November 3, 2013

**FILE** House Ways and Means Committees Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, Michigan Republican. (Associated Press)

Key Hill Republican demands Obamacare sign-up numbers now

The Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday demanded Obamacare enrollment figures from the Obama administration, citing reports that federal officials and contractors discussed the trickle of people gaining coverage under the law as early as Oct. 1, the first day the web-based insurance markets went live. Published November 1, 2013

FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2012 file photo, Jeffrey Zients testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. President Barack Obama is calling Zients to help correct problems with the new federal health care website. The White House says Zients will assist a team that is said to be working around the clock on the site,  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Obamacare fix-it czar says website repair on track

Jeffrey Zients, the management expert and former top White House budget aide tapped by President Obama to help fix the federal Obamacare website, said Friday his repair team is still on track to have the online portal working smoothly for the "vast majority of users" by the end of this month. Published November 1, 2013

**FILE** Linda Lavoie, of West Bath, Maine, sings the Battle Hymn of the Republic during a rally to protest an upcoming federal mandate that most institutions and businesses provide insurance plans that cover artificial birth control on June 8, 2012, In Augusta, Maine. The guidelines from the Obama administration will go into effect in August. Opponents say requiring employers to provide those services through their health plans is a violation of religious freedom, despite promised exemptions and accommodations for religious institutions. (Associated Press)

D.C. appeals court backs challenge to Obamacare contraception mandate

A D.C.-based federal appeals court ruled Friday a mandate in the new health care law that requires two Catholic brothers in Ohio to insure birth control for their employees violates their religious freedoms — the latest in a string of legal opinions that are driving a controversial section of the Obamacare debate toward a hearing before the Supreme Court. Published November 1, 2013

**FILE** House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 15, 2013. (Associated Press)

House GOP: Only six signed up on Obamacare site on Day 1

The House's top investigator released Obamacare meeting notes late Thursday that suggest only six people were able to enroll in coverage through a federal web portal on its launch date, Oct. 1. Published November 1, 2013

** FILE ** Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican (Associated Press)

Some are in, some are out of Obamacare on Capitol Hill

Members of Congress had to decide by Thursday which of their staffers would be kicked off their congressional health care plan and forced to buy coverage through the Obamacare exchanges, leading to a mishmash of legal strategies and recriminations on Capitol Hill. Published October 31, 2013

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)

D.C. health exchange security question: What are your Lotto numbers?

Problems with web-security questions were one of the key glitches the Obamacare rollout faced early on, both on federal and state-based exchanges. Now that they're working more smoothly, at least one congressman is poking fun at a question on the D.C.-run exchange in which federal lawmakers and their staffs are expected to enroll. Published October 31, 2013

** FILE ** Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, before the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the difficulties plaguing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Obamacare not for me, HHS head Kathleen Sebelius says

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. Published October 30, 2013

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pauses on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, prior to testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the difficulties plaguing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Sebelius, President Barack Obama's top health official faced tough questioning by a congressional committee Wednesday that will demand she explain how the administration stumbled so badly in its crippled online launch of the president's health care overhaul.  (AP Photo/ J. Scott Applewhite)

Sebelius: 'Hold me accountable for this debacle'

President Obama's top health official admitted to Congress on Wednesday that Obamacare's main website faces a litany of problems, including the delivery of inaccurate data to insurers and glitches that do not allow uninsured Americans to enroll, resulting in a "miserably frustrating experience for way too many Americans." Published October 30, 2013

Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, pauses while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Obamacare website chief apologizes for poor rollout

The head of the agency in charge of the new health care law apologized Tuesday to people who've tried to use the flawed federal Obamacare website, but she said she still has faith that the site will be working for most Americans by the end of November. Published October 29, 2013

** FILE ** Rep. Diane Black, Tennessee Republican, speaks in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Nov. 9, 2011. (Associated Press)

Obamacare gets grace period, but privacy still a concern

The federal Obamacare website has been blasted for technical problems, but Republicans say an even bigger problem may be lurking inside the computer system — weak protections of private information. Published October 28, 2013

In this Oct. 15, 2013, photo, Meg Poulelis, left, and other social media experts at the marketing agency FleishmanHillard monitor online chatter about the Affordable Care Act at a command center in Chicago. Poulelis leads the social media team for the Get Covered Illinois marketing campaign, which uses Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to convince young people to buy health insurance under President Barack Obama's health care law. (AP Photo/Carla K. Johnson)

Obama peddles inexpensive insurance options to wary youth

As website glitches raise fears that young, healthy people will not sign up for coverage under the new health care law, the Obama administration Monday reported that nearly half of single young adults seeking insurance could purchase a health plan for $50 or less per month. Published October 28, 2013

From left, Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president of CGI Federal; Andrew Slavitt, group executive vice president for Optum/QSSI; Lynn Spellecy, corporate counsel for Equifax Workforce Solutions; and John Lau, program director for Serco, listen to questioning on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing with contractors that built the federal government's health care websites. The contractors responsible for building the troubled website say it was the government's responsibility _ not theirs _ to test it and make sure it worked. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

HealthCare.Gov developers tell Congress crucial tests were shirked

The Obama administration waited until the last minute to test the main Obamacare website and refused to ask for a delay when hiccups arose, government contractors testified to Congress on Thursday as they tried to explain why the rollout of the insurance exchanges has been so rocky. Published October 24, 2013

**FILE** Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican. (Associated Press)

GOP Rep. Fred Upton: Obamacare website should have been 'the easy part'

A top Republican lawmaker said Thursday that a federal website tied to Obamacare "should have been the easy part" and that is it time for contractors and officials to admit what they knew ahead of time about the glitches that are spoiling the rollout of President Obama's key legacy item. Published October 24, 2013

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that self-insuring religious employers will be exempted from a contraception coverage mandate. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. joined her Tuesday for the release of a health care fraud and abuse control program report. (Associated Press)

Obamacare contractors set to take heat for missteps, spread blame around

The lead contractor on the bug-riddled website tied to Obamacare is set to tell Congress that it takes some blame for problems with the system but that a government agency called many of the shots ahead of the site's Oct. 1 debut and another contractor's work created a "bottleneck" among users on the front end of enrollment. Published October 24, 2013