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November 6, 2013

Senators grapple with health care rollout woes

WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior government official declined to say Tuesday if the administration will support legislation to fulfill President Barack Obama’s oft-stated promise that anyone who likes their health care plan will be able to keep it under the nation’s new law.

Appearing before a Senate committee, Marilyn Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also said the government’s health care web site has improved since its widely panned launch a month ago, and is still improving.

“Users can now successfully create an account and continue through the full application and enrollment process,” she said. We are now able to process nearly 17,000 registrants per hour, or 5 per second, with almost no errors.”

Republicans on the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee emphasized their longstanding criticism of the law, citing examples of cancellations and increased costs while raising questions about cyber-security for healthcare.gov.

One, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, asked if the administration would support legislation introduced in the Senate to allow individuals to retain their existing coverage if they want to. He recalled Obama’s pledge to that effect, first made in 2009.

In response, Tavenner said she hadn’t read the legislation, and took no position on it.

Similarly, White House officials declined comment on Tuesday on similar bills introduced in both houses by other lawmakers.

Committee Democrats were generally less pointed, although Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland cited consumer confusion.

“I think it’s very confusing about where you go,” she said. “I can tell you, people really don’t know, they really, really don’t know.”

Tavenner, who last week apologized to the public for the poor quality of the website in its earliest days, invited the public to go online for themselves to see how it was now functioning.

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