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Dylan Scott

Dylan Scott is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He previously reported for Governing magazine in Washington, D.C., and the Las Vegas Sun. His work has been recognized with a 2013 American Society of Business Publication Editors award for Best Feature Series and a 2010 Associated Press Society of Ohio award for Best Investigative Reporting. He can be reached at dylan@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Dylan

About one in five uninsured Americans have visited the online insurance marketplaces created by Obamacare, according to a new Gallup poll.

Gallup found that 18 percent of the uninsured had visited the sites, which include HealthCare.gov, the troubled federal site that serves more than 30 states. Among the uninsured who say they do plan to use the marketplaces to purchase insurance, the number who have visited the marketplaces ticks up to 22 percent.

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In an interview with NBC News, President Barack Obama apologized Thursday that people were seeing their health insurance policies canceled under Obamacare, despite the president's earlier pledge that they woud not.

"I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me," Obama said, according to a portion of an interview released by NBC News. "We've got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this."

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Ten Republican senators have signed a letter to President Barack Obama, demanding that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius be forced to resign over HealthCare.gov

The letter was authored by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and signed by Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Enzi (R-WY), James Risch (R-ID), Mark Kirk (R-IL), John Barrasso (R-WY), James Inhofe (R-OK), and Rand Paul (R-KY).

A group of 32 House Republicans have also called on Sebelius to resign. The letter's text is below.

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC  20500

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

We write today to formally request that you immediately relieve Secretary Sebelius of her duties as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

 

After the failed October 1 launch of the federally-run Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchanges, HealthCare.gov, it must be acknowledged that the problems are profound, systemic and undeniable. The website repeatedly crashed. Many visitors were unable to create accounts. Individuals have reported waiting for days to register online and being put on hold for hours after calling the 1-800 helpline. Even after visitors create accounts, they are often unable to access accurate information about subsidies and Medicaid eligibility.  And when a user does select an insurance plan, insurers have reported that Healthcare.gov transmits error-filled applications to the insurance companies.  In addition, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials will not report how many individuals or families have been able to enroll in a plan on HealthCare.gov.

 

Regrettably, these problems were diagnosed early and ignored. The New York Times reports, “Confidential progress reports from the Health and Human Services Department show that senior officials repeatedly expressed doubts that the computer systems for the federal exchange would be ready on time” (From the Start, Signs of Trouble at Health Portal, October 12, 2013). The Government Accountability Office also issued warnings in June that HHS had to address many issues in a very short timeframe before the October 1 rollout. The contractor “status report” from early September warned that significant milestones were being missed and that timeframes were too short. Tests done just days before the launch reportedly showed the computer systems couldn't handle more than a few hundred hits at a time. However, the Secretary refused to give credence to these warnings. 

 

In the days immediately following the launch, when it was apparent that problems were deep-seeded, Secretary Sebelius misled the public by claiming the issues were the result of high volume. According to her statements to the press, she even failed to inform you, the President under whom she serves, until days after the website launch that there were systemic problems needing millions more dollars and man hours to fix.

 

There is bipartisan agreement that accountability is paramount. Your former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, “When they get it fixed, I hope they fire some people that were in charge of making sure that this thing was supposed to work.”

 

While assurances have been made that solutions are forthcoming, we have little confidence that immediate resolution is imminent. After spending more than $400 million on the failed website, taxpayers should not trust the same failed leadership to fix it. We believe that action must be taken swiftly to protect the American people from further fallout. If a similar rollout from any other national company or private sector business resulted in overwhelming and sustained problems, a high profile dismissal would be expected and appropriate.

 

Even worse, millions of Americans will lose their existing coverage starting January 1, 2014, because it does not meet new Obamacare requirements.  These people could be left without any insurance at all if the exchange systems are not working soon.

 

For these reasons, we ask that you relieve Secretary Sebelius of her position as Secretary of Health and Human Services immediately.  

Donna received the letter canceling her insurance plan on Sept. 16. Her insurance company, LifeWise of Washington, told her that they'd identified a new plan for her. If she did nothing, she'd be covered.

A 56-year-old Seattle resident with a 57-year-old husband and 15-year-old daughter, Donna had been looking forward to the savings that the Affordable Care Act had to offer.

But that's not what she found. Instead, she'd be paying an additional $300 a month for coverage. The letter made no mention of the health insurance marketplace that would soon open in Washington, where she could shop for competitive plans, and only an oblique reference to financial help that she might qualify for, if she made the effort to call and find out.

Otherwise, she'd be automatically rolled over to a new plan -- and, as the letter said, "If you're happy with this plan, do nothing."

If Donna had done nothing, she would have ended up spending about $1,000 more a month for insurance than she will now that she went to the marketplace, picked the best plan for her family and accessed tax credits at the heart of the health care reform law.

"The info that we were sent by LifeWise was totally bogus. Why the heck did they try to screw us?" Donna said. "People who are afraid of the ACA should be much more afraid of the insurance companies who will exploit their fear and end up overcharging them."

Donna is not alone.

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