As President Obama continues to defend his health care law against mounting scrutiny, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann says Obama is promoting a “system that won’t work.”
During a Bachmann appearance on CNN’s “The Situation Room” on Wednesday, host Wolf Blitzer asked her, “Do you want to try to make it better, to fix it, or do you just want to destroy it?”
Bachmann said: “What I want is the finest possible health care for America that we can have. We did have fabulous health care, and I think we can again.” Blitzer countered Bachmann, telling her “there were millions of people who had no health care.”
In response, Bachmann said Obama is promoting “fantasy health care” with the Affordable Care Act. She listed several promises the president made that she believes he’s failed to keep, including his 2009 campaign guarantee that, "If you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance."
Under the law’s new insurance marketplaces, millions of people are getting notices in the mail informing them that they can no longer keep their existing plans. Plans are being canceled if they fail to meet the health care law's minimum standards, including maternity care, emergency visits and mental health treatment.
The dropped plans contradict the pledge.
The rollout of the Affordable Care Act has been hampered by technical problems with the Healthcare.gov insurance exchange website, problems Obama acknowledged and said would soon be fixed.
“If it doesn’t, it will be the laughingstock of America,” Bachmann said.
But, “the bigger problem is a health care system that won’t work,” she added.
Bachmann is among the members of Congress who’ve voted more than 40 times to defund or repeal the health care law.
“It’s no surprise that some of the same folks trying to scare people now are the same folks who have been trying to sink the Affordable Care Act from the beginning,” Obama said during a speech in Boston on Wednesday.
“Frankly, I don’t understand it. Providing people with health care should be a no-brainer. Giving people a chance to get health care should be a no-brainer.”
U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen used a hearing on the rocky rollout of the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange to call attention to what he considers a flawed law that threatens to leave more Americans without care because of high premiums.
Paulsen and others grilled Marilyn Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, about the HealthCare.gov website – and the policy that created it -- during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. Her agency was tasked with building and operating the site.
The website is supposed to allow uninsured people to sign up and register for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s health care reform law, but the site has been plagued by problems that have prevented people from completing applications.
“Many independent analysts … have been predicting the higher premiums, these cancellations would be coming, you weren’t going to be able to keep your doctor or your health insurance even though the promise was laid out by the president,” Paulsen told Tavenner. “Directly from our constituents, we’re hearing about these challenges.”
Tavenner apologized to Americans, saying the exchange’s flaws are “not acceptable” and vowed the site “can and would” be fixed by the end of November.
“How do you know the schedule is going to be kept?” Paulsen asked. “What happens if you miss November 30?”
In defending the website, Tavenner said the “system is working, it’s just not working as smoothly or as consistently as we want.”
The flawed debut of the insurance exchange is tarnishing the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s domestic policy centerpiece designed to offer medical coverage to most of the nation’s uninsured.
Paulsen and other members of the Republican-led House have voted more than 40 times to repeal or defund the 2010 health care law. Now, after three years of trying to dismantle the law generally known as Obamacare, Republican lawmakers are now seizing on the website’s troubles.
But their efforts haven't come without criticism.
“It’s really rich for Republicans to be shedding crocodile tears over the glitches in the website when they have done nothing for four years but try to impede, repeal and defund the law and root for its failure,” said Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change, a liberal advocacy group.
“Are we really to believe Congressman Paulsen gives a spit that Americans are having trouble enrolling in a health plan? This is a transparent attempt by Republicans to score political points around road bumps in the health law’s implementation.”
Tavenner also faced questions from committee members about the administration’s claims that everything was on track for a successful launch. As recently as September, she predicted a smooth rollout.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann was among the House Republicans who signed a letter to President Obama last week, calling for the resignation of Tavenner’s boss -- Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius’s -- because of problems with the website.
Last week, her agency hired contractor Quality Software Services Inc., a subsidiary of Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group Inc., to be the general manager for the effort to fix the troubled website.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann is among the 32 House Republicans who signed a letter to President Obama on Wednesday, urging him to request the resignation of Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius because of glitches in the Affordable Care Act website, HealthCare.gov.
“With more than three years to prepare for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, we are surprised to see the level of uncertainty, confusion and incompetence that has riddled the Health Insurance Marketplace since October 1,” Bachmann and the other members write.
“Unfortunately, as we have seen in numerous news reports, many Americans have found it impossible to sign up for the required health coverage or to simply learn about the new plans and associated costs. The scope of the problem is so great that, were this a private company or military command the CEO or general would have been fired.”
Democrats have also criticized the health care reform law’s troublesome rollout. On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan said it was time for Obama to “man up, find out who was responsible and fire them.”
But, unlike Bachmann, Nolan stopped short of calling for the dismissal of any specific administration official or contractor.
"There are people like myself who supported the Affordable Care Act, but I'm not oblivious to the fact that this layout has done harm and damage to the brand," Nolan said.
The northern Minnesota congressman is among 11 House Democrats that Republicans are targeting with radio ads criticizing the website.
In the ads from the National Republican Congressional Committee, a woman says, “If you're facing all these issues just signing up, imagine how difficult it could be to get medical care. Finding a doctor's appointment will be a nightmare. And have you looked into how much your insurance premiums will rise?"
The ads are also running in the districts of U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson and Tim Walz.
The web site for Minnesota’s health insurance exchange, MNsure, gets a thumbs down in a national study of usability issues and consumer experience for people trying to buy insurance under the new health care law.
The study by HealthPocket.com, a free site that rates health plans, comes amid a wave of bad publicity over technical glitches that have plagued the federal health care exchanges that rolled out Oct. 1. MNsure also was hit by a security snafu last month when an employee accidentally emailed private data to an insurance agent.
But the problems found by HealthPocket are of a lower order of magnitude, focusing mainly on the ease of online shopping and phone support.
Among the snags: testers found that the MNsure site requires a comparatively high number of steps, or clicks, to arrive at a screen that compares insurance plans. From the report: “Among single web site exchanges with anonymous [no registration required] health plan comparisons, testers found Minnesota’s exchange, MNsure, had the most steps at 18.”
The problem with that is that in the world of online shopping, more steps increase the risk of web site visitors giving up.
Another shortcoming was that HealthPocket testers, on average, took slightly longer at 11 minutes to reach a live customer service representative to ask questions about MNsure. The average in other states is about two minutes.
Analysts said these defects can be significant for people struggling to understand the law and its requirements. “You can’t always assume high levels of consumer expertise or familiarity with health reform legislation,” said Kevin Coleman, head of research and data at HealthPocket.com.
Officials at MNsure said that while they are constantly striving to improve the site, Minnesotans seem to be finding what they need. As of Wednesday, 3,769 people had enrolled in health insurance plans through the exchange, and 406 had bought insurance. In addition, 5,569 had completed applications on behalf of 11,684 people, almost 10 percent of the statewide goal of 135,153 -- just two weeks into the six-month enrollment period.
“The HealthPocket survey is one view of things,” said MNsure spokeswoman Jenni Bowring-McDonough. “However, Minnesotans are navigating MNsure and they are securing health insurance.”
The report notes that all the state exchanges do not use the same underlying software system. In all, 36 states use the federal government’s Healthcare.gov technology for their health plan comparisons and enrollment functionality, with the remaining states administering their own web sites.
Consumer advocates have been pressing for more and better information to help consumers navigate the law, which critics dub "Obamacare." Many of the sites fail to give consumers basic information about subsidy estimates, out of pocket costs, and doctor networks, according to Robert Krughoff, founder and president of Center for the Study of Services/Consumers' CHECKBOOK.
"The architecture of the web site is very important," he said, "but so is the content."
Stillwater native Denis McDonough, President Obama’s chief of staff, was seen greeting returning federal workers at the White House gates Thursday morning, marking the end of the 16-day federal government shutdown.
McDonough was described by White House press pool reporter Alexis Simendinger of RealClearPolitics “in shirt sleeves and with a No. 2 pencil above his right ear…greeting returning workers shortly after 9 a.m. at the [northwest] guard gate.”
According to Simendinger, the former St. John’s football player “could be heard saying ‘Good Morning!’ in a loud voice, patting the shoulders of workers and exchanging a few cheery remarks.”