Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz (PA-13) delivered the following opening statement a Ways and Means Committee hearing on the status of the Affordable Care Act implementation.
Thank you and thanks for this opportunity, and thank you for being here. The purpose of this hearing is to really acknowledge the difficulties and deeply troubling initial rollout of the website that is supposed to enable all our constituents and American access health care coverage in these health care marketplaces. The fact is, and you acknowledge some of this, there have been inexcusable and unacceptable rollout of the launch of this marketplace.
As you know, millions of Americans—and they’re in all of our districts—are anxious to obtain the information on options for affordable coverage with the consumer protections that you pointed out. We saw this interest when millions of Americans went online on one day—October 1, 2013—and the face is that the administration really failed these Americans. They really had an experience they should not have had. Americans failed to be able to access the information on these options and to be able to enroll they expected to and hoped for.
The Administration failed to properly test the website—at least that’s the way it’s been reported—and failed to take action to recognize and fix these problems along the way. You did in the beginning acknowledge that this initial experience was not a positive one, and essentially apologized. I appreciate that, and I think so do they.
But you also have to acknowledge that that initial experience has actually done some damage to Americans' confidence in this website, in the marketplace and even potentially the options that they would have available to get health coverage.
So this is not only an opportunity for millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans to get affordable, meaningful health coverage, but it’s also an obligation under law to make sure that this website works because that is the way that they are going to find out their options and to be able to enroll.
Going forward, there can be no more excuses. We need to hear from you [Administrator Marilyn Tavenner] that there is actually a path forward. You can be as specific and explicit as you can possibly be with us and with the public to help regain our confidence and the public’s confidence in the ability of the Administration and these subcontractors and contractors to get this right.
We’ve heard reports of a lack of coordination in implementing these different contracts. Can you speak to—again, if you could be specific about this, because I want to be able to go home and be able to say, “This is going to work.” And it has to work, because that is the way American will access this information and be able to sign up. We all know those people, who are underinsured, uninsured, and they are looking for these options.
So you need to give us some more explicit information about how you’re going to better implement and coordinate these contractors to get this right for the American people.