Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, told a Senate committee she will not consider delaying full implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Many Republicans and some Democrats have called for a delay of the mandate to have health insurance, citing widespread technical problems with the main website (www.healthcare.gov) for enrolling in newly available health insurance plans. People without insurance have until March 31, 2014, to enroll in a policy or owe a tax penalty.
Delaying the Affordable Care Act would not delay peoples cancer or diabetes or Parkinsons disease, Sebelius said Wednesday, Nov. 6, at a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee. It would not delay the need for mental health services or cholesterol screenings or prenatal care. It doesnt delay the foreclosure notices for families forced into bankruptcy by unpayable medical bills.
Sebelius reiterated that the Obama administration expects the site to be operating essentially at full capacity by late November. She said the administration will release initial enrollment figures next week, and predicted they would be very low.
The Congressional Budget Office has projected 7 million people will enroll in insurance plans through the exchanges by the March 31 end of open enrollment. Analysts say significantly lower enrollment, especially by younger and healthier people, could lead to a spike in insurance premiums and make the ACA unsustainable.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, also raised the question of whether consumers identities could be at risk when they enroll in an ACA insurance policy using the website, given the apparent lack of opportunity to fully test the system before and since it went online.
Sebelius said the sites security meets federal standards. Consumers must give their Social Security number, but that information is not stored, she said. Among security experts who have been consulted, no one suggested the risks outweighed the importance of moving forward with full implementation, she said.
Marilyn Tavenner, RN, BSN, MHA, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, spoke to a Senate committee the day before Sebelius appearance: http://news.nurse.com/article/20131106/NATIONAL06/111060003