Nebraska Congressmen have been listening to Obama Administration officials explaining the problems with the federal healthcare roll-out.
Congressman Adrian Smith acknowledges Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Director Marilyn Tavenner had a hard task before the House Ways and Means Committee, trying to explain why the healthcare website failed when enrollment began October 1st.
“She’s a messenger of a message that a lot of Americans find confusing,” Smith tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.
Smith sits on the powerful Ways and Means Committee and got to hear the first round of testimony on the faltering beginning of the federal healthcare law, often called Obamacare.
Tavenner became the first person from the Obama Administration to apologize for the faulty rollout of the healthcare website.
“To the millions of Americans who’ve attempted to use HealthCare.gov to shop and enroll in health-care coverage, I want to apologize to you that the Web site has not worked as well as it should. We know how desperately you need affordable coverage,” Tavenner stated during the Ways and Means hearing Tuesday.
The Ways and Means Committee hearing got heated as well.
Congressman Bill Pascrell of New Jersey loudly criticized Republicans on the committee for refusing to cooperate with Democrats to improve the federal healthcare law.
Pascrell pointed out that Democrats worked with the Bush Administration to create Medicare Part D.
Pascrell then latched on to a comment made by Congressman Tim Griffin, a Republican of Arkansas, who stated it was a “false choice” to say the only option was the healthcare law.
“Are you serious, what you just said? Are you really serious? After what we have gone through and what we’ve gone through in the last three and a half years?” Pascrell said before standing up again, according to a story published by Politico.
“You can sit there and say that you had a legitimate alternative after these years? We’ve gone through 44 votes, 48 votes now of you trying to dismantle this legislation! You call that cooperation? I don’t! I don’t call that cooperation!” Pascrell yelled.
Smith rejected Pascrell’s conclusion.
“It’s convenient to say that that was the only alternative,” Smith says. “Wow, that’s just simply not the case. There have been numerous bills introduced, but they’ve been shut out. Definitely, when we were in the minority, we were shut out from that discussion and that debate.”
The healthcare law passed Congress in 2010 when Democrats controlled both the House and Senate without a single Republican vote.
Smith says the issue is too large and complex for the federal government to handle in one sweeping bill.
The second day of testimony came on Wednesday, when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which includes Congressman Lee Terry.
More problems arose, even as Sebelius began her testimony. The website crashed and was inoperable for most of the morning as Sebelius told committee members to hold her accountable for the website failure.
Administration officials say the website will be fixed by the end of November.
Yet another trouble spot with the website emerged during the committee hearing. An internal memo obtained by several members of the media raised questions about the website’s security and whether it had placed the personal data of consumers at risk.
Kevin Thomas, KLIN, contributed to this article.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]