Visiting a community health center on Friday in Austin, Texas, Sebelius said that “in an ideal world there would have been a lot more testing.” But she added that her department had little flexibility to postpone the launch against the backdrop of Washington’s unforgiving politics. Republicans hoping, in the words of their TV ads, to “defund Obamacare” precipitated a government shutdown.
Some Republicans have been calling for her ouster, and she addressed that issue a day earlier in Phoenix. She said, “The majority of people calling for me to resign I would say are people who I don’t work for and do not want this program to work in the first place.” She added, “I have had frequent conversations with the president, and I’ve admitted to him that my role is to get the program up and running and we will do just that.”
Zients gave some new details about the extent of the problems, but administration officials are still refusing to release any numbers on how many people have successfully enrolled.
Although 700,000 have applied for coverage through the new online markets, it’s believed only a fraction of that number actually have managed to sign up. Prior to the website going live, an administration estimate projected nearly 500,000 people would sign up in October alone.
The marketplaces are the gateway to obtaining health insurance under the new health care law, which requires most Americans to have coverage by Jan. 1. Middle-class people who don’t have insurance on the job can purchase private plans with new tax credits to make the premiums more affordable. Low-income people will be steered to an expanded version of Medicaid in states that agree to extend the safety net program.
The federal government is running the insurance markets or taking the lead in 36 states. The rest were set up by states themselves.