January 17 2014
Patrice J. Lee
For an Administration that boasted it would be the most transparent in history, the Obama Administration has kept a tight rein on the flow of information about ObamaCare’s implementation and enrollment.
Fed up with the controlled flow of information and –in all too many instances – lack of information, two bi-partisan bills have passed the House and will head to the Senate that demand greater, consistent reporting to Congress.
Coming on the heels of a Congressional hearing where IT experts exposed significant new vulnerabilities with the healthcare.gov website that put at risk the personal information of Americans, these bills may gather enough steam to get action.
The Hill reports:
The House voted Thursday to require weekly updates from the Obama administration about the implementation and operation of ObamaCare and its website, HealthCare.gov.
Members passed the Exchange Information Disclosure Act in a 259-154 vote. And while many Democrats criticized the bill as another GOP attack on ObamaCare, it won the support of 33 Democrats in the final vote.
It's the second House vote in as many weeks showing some level of Democratic support for more oversight of the healthcare law. Last week, 67 Democrats voted for another GOP bill that would require officials to tell people if their personal information has been stolen from the HealthCare.gov website.
The White House opposed both bills, saying they would impose unnecessary reporting burdens on the administration. But the White House did not go as far as saying it would veto the bills.
Republicans said weekly updates are needed because the updates the administration is providing about ObamaCare happen roughly once a month. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said more frequent enrollment updates are critical because those numbers could help predict possible premium increases and other information.
Perhaps if Health and Human Services did not dish out doubtful information in such an incomplete, inconsistent manner, Congress would not feel pressed to take this action. However, the White House calls regular reporting “unnecessary” and a “burden” and that demonstrates the tight-lipped attitude it will cling to. The weekly interval that Republicans are asking for may be a short window, but if someone is collecting this information somewhere, it should not be an onerous request.
Apparently, the bill asks for a state-by-state breakdown of the number of weekly website visits, who has opened an account, how many people pick a plan, and how many enroll in a plan. Also, the Administration would be required to produce updates on the operation of the website itself.
While the bill doesn’t ask for age demographic information, it does ask for enrollees by zip code which can provide somewhat of a clue. This is one of the most critical pieces of information when you consider that if the Administration fails to achieve the right mix of healthy, young Americans to balance older, sicker enrollees, premiums will skyrocket next year leading to a death spiral in the system.
The problem the Administration faces is both administrative and PR. As we’ve reported, because of missing technical elements in the back-end of healthcare.gov, insurers have to manually verify enrollment data. That slows the enrollment process and it leaves room for enrollees to fall through the cracks – called ObamaCare orphans.
On the PR side, it looks far better to report large numbers of enrollments every few months rather than small incremental increases each week. Who wants to read the headline: A Dozen People Signed Up for ObamaCare This Week? That would expose just how behind the curve they are in hitting their targets, the sluggish pace of recruitment, and the low interest in ObamaCare.
Democrats and the Administration are quick to dismiss the reporting bills as driven by political motivations, but dozens of their Democratic colleagues have signed on.
Had the Administration managed a successful rollout, it wouldn’t be under the microscope. Also, HHS was given a $15 billion slush fund to execute ObamaCare. They are spending millions on everything from unvetted navigators to Superbowl and Winter Olympics ads to target young people. There should be some level of accountability. At last, someone is holding the Administration accountable.