The threat of penalizing the public, for not purchasing healthcare under a new law requiring many to purchase it before mandated deadlines, has millions angry and Congress asking for explanations regarding the epic rollout failure of Obamacare websites.
Americans, who cannot access the official healthcare exchange website set up by the federal government to find options online, do face government deadlines and monetary penalties.
As Speaker of the House John Boehner stated earlier this month, reported in a previous Examiner article:
"How can we tax people for not buying a product from a website that doesn't work?"
And now Congress is asking federal contractors what happened, and they want very badly to discuss the matter with the Obama Administration's person in charge of the project, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
"No reasonable expectation of privacy"
Obamacare website failures, and the inquiry by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee regarding the problems, brought forth a concerned dialog between developers and officials from Congress. According to a story at CNSnews, the matter of privacy for Americans is also at the forefront of concerns, as Rep. Joe Barton, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, informed Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president of CGI Federal Inc., the company that helped build the Obamacare health-insurance exchange website, of language which was hidden in source code on the site:
It states that applicants have “no reasonable expectation of privacy.”
So Barton heard from Campbell that she knew the warning was there.
Campbell insisted that her company was simply following "a set of rules and regulations," according to the report. Those rules were set out under their contract by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The issue is important, as two stories concerning privacy and government behavior earlier this year underscore:
- HealthcareITnews - the IRS faces a class action lawsuit over theft of 60 million medical records by 15 IRS agents.
- Libertynews - the mining of personal data by the US government - asking who should be believed - the "NSA, HHS, IRS, OR GOOGLE?"
A failure to answer a congressional request for information has prompted the possibility of a subpoena being issued to compel HHS Secretary Sebelius to respond, according to a CNN piece. Sebelius has failed to respond to a previous request and she's now getting until Monday to comply or possibly face "compulsory" action.
Ignorant or lying:
A description of the scenario in the WashingtonExaminer states that Sebelius "either lied or was ignorant."
An article on the hearing from BloombergBusinessweek reported that the Congressional testimony left many baffled. The main contractor for the Obamacare health exchanges, an official from CGI Group, described 55 different subcontractors who worked on the site and having to interact with numerous government agencies, agencies like the IRS and the Department of Homeland Security.
The report in Bloomberg quoted CGI’s Cheryl Campbell's words that if this were a house that had been built, her company was responsible for the facade and interiors of that house but not “the front door that you go into.”
The contract for that went to Quality Software Services, which is described as a division of United Health Group in the piece, and CGI's Campbell said that while components of the exchange had been tested for months, the Department of Health and Human Services didn’t test the full website until the last two weeks of September. Campbell stated:
“It would have been better to have more time.”
Uncovered in California:
In California, the state set up it's own healthcare exchange, but there have also been some issues. According to Californiahealthline, which cited the UTsandiegonews as a source, Covered California officials took the website's enrollment feature offline in order to correct technical issues discovered during the first two weeks of open enrollment.
Quoted in the story was Anne Gonzales, a spokesperson for the California exchange who laid some blame on insurance companies incorrectly coding doctors' specialties for the online directory. She stated:
"We recognize that many consumers will base their plan selection on the provider network, so we're anxious to get the directory online."
Earlier this week, according to the same story, exchange officials reported they no longer will reveal the number of applications completed via Covered California.
Gonzales said that officials believed that "... applications started covers it all."