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Apologies then excuses

"Apologies then excuses" Continued...

At her hearing earlier in the day, Sebelius was unable to answer a question about abortion coverage posed by Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill. Pro-life groups are discovering abortion coverage surcharges hidden in some of the new multi-state healthcare exchanges created by Obamacare. Legislation has since been introduced to provide more transparency in what types of coverage someone is buying.

Shimkus asked Sebelius if she would “commit to us to make sure that the federal exchanges that offer [abortion] are clearly identified … so people can understand if they’re going to buy a policy that has abortion coverage or not?”

Sebelius’ response will not comfort many pro-life Americans: “Sir, I … I don’t know. … I … I know exactly the, the, uh, um, issue that you are talking about. I will check and make sure.”

The HHS secretary also could not provide firm answers regarding whether the Obamacare website will be secure even as millions of Americans are being asked to input sensitive personal information. “I don’t know,” Sebelius said, calling security an “ongoing operation.”

But Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., had some answers ready for Sebelius. He introduced a letter written to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Marilyn Tavenner, which stated that security assessments were “only partly completed.” The letter, dated Sept. 27—just days before the website’s Oct. 1 launch—said the incomplete security check “constitutes a risk that must be accepted and mitigated.” The letter written by senior technical officials gave the website a temporary security certificate.

“You accepted a risk on behalf of every user … that put their personal financial information at risk,” Rogers told Sebelius. “Don’t you think you have the obligation to tell the American people that ‘we’re going to put you in this system but beware your information is likely to be vulnerable?’… Amazon would never do this. ProFlowers would never do this. Kayak would never do this. This is completely an unacceptable level of security.”

Sebelius also repeatedly claimed under questioning that it would be illegal for her to sign up for Obamacare since she gets insurance through her employer. She said it was against the law. But according to the law, an individual may reject their work coverage and sign up for an Obamacare exchange. That person would not be eligible for federal subsidies, so doing so would cost more. Yet, despite what the head of the agency overseeing Obamacare insisted, it would be legal.

Sebelius’ testimony did not seem to restore lawmakers’ confidence in Obamacare. And in the president’s afternoon speech he revealed a new line of defense for the administration: start attacking Republicans for not being willing to do more to fix a law that is only weeks old.

“You know, if Republicans in Congress were as eager to help Americans get covered as some Republican governors have shown themselves to be, we'd make a lot of progress,” Obama said. “I'm not asking them to agree with me on everything. But if they'd work with us … we'd be a lot further along.”

Jay Sekulow, with the American Center for Law and Justice said the day’s events “reinforces what’s become standard operating procedure for the Obama administration when facing a crisis: Issue an apology, pledge to do better, and move on.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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