Ten House Democrats Ask GAO To Scrutinize Exchange Website After 'Disastrous' Launch
By CQ Roll Call
Ten House Democrats asked the Government Accountability Office Friday to examine the functionality and security of the federal health exchange website so lawmakers can determine whether the open enrollment period should be extended.
Reps. Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., led the effort for the report, which theyrequested be completed before the new congressional session starts during the week of Jan. 6.
Lipinski seemed especially skeptical of the Obama administration’s claims that the website has been vastly improved.
“Despite assurances that healthcare.gov has been fixed after the disastrous rollout, significant concerns still remain,” said Lipinski in a statement. He said that reports suggest there are still issues with waiting times and system glitches that are making it difficult for some people to sign up for a health care plan.
“In addition, critical parts of the system still have not been built and insurers may not be receiving correct information about the individuals and families who have enrolled in their plans,” he said. “An independent analysis of the functionality of the website is clearly warranted when millions of Americans are being required to use either healthcare.gov to purchase a health plan or pay a penalty.”
Other Democrats who signed the letter are Ron Barber, D-Ariz.; Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii; Pete Gallego, D-Texas; Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H.; Scott Peters, D-Calif.; Patrick Murphy, D-Fla.;Filemon Vela, D-Texas; and John Barrow, D-Ga. The Democrats are largely from swing districts.
Lipinski, who did not vote for the health care legislation in 2010, has introduced two bills intended to address problems linked to the law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152). One (HR 3425) would delay the open enrollment until 90 days after the Health and Human Services Inspector General certifies that healthcare.gov is fully operational. The penalties to comply with the law’s mandate to buy insurance would not kick in until 30 days later.
Another (HR 3406) would allow insurance companies to keep offering plans indefinitely to existing customers. The law would require those plans to be cancelled on Jan. 1, 2014, unless they comply with the minimum health coverage requirements in the measure. Last month, President Barack Obama said consumers who are enrolled in those plans would have an extra year to renew them if the state insurance commissioner and insurer agree.
The lawmakers asked the watchdog group to evaluate whether the administration is meeting its benchmark goals and whether those goals are appropriate.
The GAO also was asked to scrutinize the security of the website and the reliability of the information that is being sent from the website to insurers. The letter also asks questions about the potential for future problems, such as whether people who have enrolled get their coverage as they expect and what kinds of problems could prevent people from buying insurance through the marketplace before the end of open enrollment on March 31.
“A nonpartisan evaluation by the GAO would help Congress make an informed decision regarding extending the open enrollment period under the ACA [law] or delaying penalties for individuals and families who do not carry health insurance,” said the letter.
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