Kathleen Sebelius knows she screwed up.
The Health and Human Services Secretary testified on Capitol Hill on Wednesday morning, apologizing for the rocky rollout of Obamacare and its glitch-filled HealthCare.gov website.
“I am as frustrated and angry as anyone with the failed launch,” Sebelius told the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “You deserve better. I apologize. I’m accountable to you for fixing these problems. And I’m committed to earning your confidence back by fixing the site.”
Sebelius also acknowledged that the department has “no reliable data about enrollment, which is why we haven’t given it to date.” Republicans have been demanding specific figures on how many Americans have signed up. Sebelius said the website’s glitches prevented HHS from gathering those figures and echoed previous statements that the numbers on initial enrollment will be released publicly in mid-November.
This was her first appearance before Congress since the state-based exchanges opened for Americans to purchase on Oct. 1 and comes as several Republican lawmakers are calling on her to resign, including Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the top GOPer on the Senate Health Committee.
Sebelius reiterated President Obama’s message last week – that while there are problems with the website itself, the commander-in-chief’s signature Affordable Care Act as a whole is working for millions of Americans.
White House officials have said they expect the site, which took years to build and cost hundreds of millions of dollars, to be completely fixed by the end of next month.
Republican Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan and chairman of the committee said he hopes to find out at the hearing if officials simply didn’t know how problematic the website was or if they chose not to disclose it.
“The news seems to get worse by the day…This is more than a website problem,” said Upton.
Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California insisted the “early glitches of this rollout will soon be forgotten” and that his colleagues should “stop hyperventilating” because the “unfortunate” errors will soon be fixed.
Sebelius said there were several improvements that have been made and that the department has hired new management and new technical expertise. She said the site can now process up to 17,000 account registrations per hour, or five per second and that users are experiencing fewer errors and time out messages.
Contractors who built HealthCare.gov told the same committee last week that they weren’t to blame, with some insisting the government was partially at fault.
Marilyn Tavenner, head of the government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services–which is overseeing the implantation of Obama’s healthcare law–also apologized to the American publibenjc at a congressional hearing on Tuesday morning.
Here are questions that Sebelius is likely to face during the hearing.
Watch the livestream below: