What is the meaning of accountability? In the Obama administration, it’s mostly just a defense mechanism to defang critics and keep your job. Kathleen Sebelius offered an apology for a “miserably frustrating” launch of the Healthcare.gov website, and told Congress, “I’m accountable”:
Sebelius also pledged to continue improvements on the site, a promise which came at a very bad time:
Sebelius told the House Energy and Commerce Committee she apologizes for access problems that have been “miserably frustrating” for many Americans and said she’s accountable for fixing them – by the end of November.
She added that the system is getting better by the day.
But as the hearing got underway, consumers trying to log in from Virginia got this message: “The system is down at the moment.”
D’oh! And in another headscratching moment, Sebelius doubled down on the “you can keep your plan” lie:
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) October 30, 2013
House Energy and Commerce Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) pressed Sebelius on why the president had made that statement, given recent reports of individual policies being dropped prior to 2014, which is when the law’s major market reforms take effect.
“Mr. Chairman, there was no change,” Sebelius said. “The regulation involving grandfathered plans, which applied to both the employer market and the individual market, indicated that if a plan was in effect in March of 2010, stayed in effect without unduly burdening the consumer with reducing benefits and adding on huge costs, that plan would stay in effect and never have to comply with any regulations of the Affordable Care Act.”
“That’s what the grandfather clause said. The individual market which affects about 12 million Americans, about 5 percent of the market. People move in and out. They often have coverage for less than a year. A third of them have coverage for about six months. And if a plan was in place in March of 2010 and again did not impose additional burdens on the consumer, they still have it. It’s grandfathered in.”
Be sure to read the NBC report and HHS itself on the “additional burdens” imposed by HHS to ensure that few plans would meet those requirements. So much for accountability!
Update: Let’s not forget that Sebelius had $400 million and 42 months to get the website done. If HHS can’t handle a web portal in that time frame with those resources, then “accountability” is hardly forthcoming.
Update: Here’s a split screen that the White House won’t like much:
Seriously unfortunate live split screen. pic.twitter.com/1OIsPE7gR9
— Zach Wolf (@zbyronwolf) October 30, 2013
Update: Sam Baker at National Journal moves in for the kill:
Over the past three days, the Obama administration has blamed almost everyone but itself for the debacle that is HealthCare.gov and the wave of cancellations that consumers are now receiving.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius did take some responsibility for the website on Wednesday, telling a House panel to hold her accountable for the site’s failures.
But that concession came only after HHS had pointed the finger at three other parties in less than three days.