- The Washington Times - Monday, November 11, 2013

Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan is calling on federal inspectors to investigate the “unacceptable” rollout of the federal Obamacare website to examine what went wrong, who was at fault and how much it is costing to fix the mess.

Ms. Hagan, who faces a re-election campaign in North Carolina next year, is circulating a draft letter to Gene Dodaro, comptroller general at the Government Accountability Office, and Daniel R. Levinson, inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services, that gets tough on the flawed debut of HealthCare.gov.

She said million of Americans “eagerly awaited” the online portal’s Oct. 1 launch, hoping to gain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

“Unfortunately, the site crashed early that morning after receiving just a thousand visitors,” she said in the letter. “More than a month later, too many visitors still find the site unusable. At every step of the user experience, site errors have prevented people from effectively shopping and enrolling in plans.”

The Obama administration is scrambling to fix the site and has pledged to have it working smoothly for the “vast majority” of users by the end of the month.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats who face tough elections in right-leaning states are formulating ways to ease the burden on uninsured people who could face penalties under President Obama’s health care law if they fail to gain health insurance.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, introduced a bill that would let people keep their health plans if they like them, an attempt to follow through on Mr. Obama’s oft-stated promise after millions of Americans received cancellation notices saying their existing plans didn’t meet Obamacare’s minimum-coverage standards.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat, is gathering support for a proposal that would extend the open enrollment period past March 31, given the widespread web glitches that ruined much of the first month of enrollment on HealthCare.gov.

But Sen. Mark Begich, Alaska Democrat, took a more personal route to finding common ground with his constituents — he enrolled in coverage through Alaska’s federally run exchange.

“I want to have the exact same experience and go through the same steps as other Alaskans when it comes to signing up for health care, which is why I have decided to refuse any federal subsidy and have signed up on Alaska’s federally run Marketplace,” Mr. Begich said.

In a press release, his office pitched Mr. Begich as a “vocal critic” of the law’s rollout so far, saying he wants the White House to help thousands of Alaskans get coverage with the help of government subsidies under the law.

Ms. Hagan said “what should be a 21st century digital process” has turned into “an antiquated, paper-and-pencil effort,” as the Obama administration pushes phone or in-person enrollment while the web problems persist.

She wants to know why the primary contract to build the website was not awarded until September 2011, because the contractor’s responsibilities were clear when Congress passed the law in March 2010.

Additionally, her letter asks how much each of the system’s 55 contractors were paid, and if the government can recoup money as punishment for poor performance.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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