Embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius defended the Affordable Care Act during a congressional hearing about the law’s disastrous rollout on Wednesday.
“Even with the unacceptable problems with Healthcare.gov the Affordable Care Act by any fair measure is working for millions of Americans.” Sebelius said.
“He’s been on the same page from the very start, yet the regulations changed months after the bill was enacted that are now causing perhaps millions of Americans to be denied the ability to renew their individual coverage,” Rep. Fred Upton (R., Mich.) said.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) pressed Sebelius on this, asking if the president is “keeping his promise” that if you like your plan, you can keep it.
Sebelius said he was.
“What do you say to NBC News who says millions are going to lose their coverage?” Blackburn asked.
“In all deference to the press corps, who are here today, I think that it’s important to be accurate about what is going on […] they will have ongoing coverage; they will be offered new plans,” Sebelius said.
“Insurance companies cancel individual policies year in and year out. They are a one-year contract with individuals. They are not lifetime plans,” she said.
According to reports, at least two million people have been dropped from their insurance plans. The Obama administration was also aware that many people would not be able to stay on existing insurance plans due to a regulation that narrowed the grandfather clause.
Individuals are able to keep their insurance plans so long as it has not changed since the president signed the law in 2010. If an insurance company slightly changes a plan, it no longer qualifies under the grandfather clause and has to comply with the provisions of Affordable Care Act.
Democrats pushed back on this line of questioning, criticizing Republicans for rooting for the legislation to fail and expressing frustration with what they say is insincere distress.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D., N.J.) said that there is a “continuous effort on the part of the GOP to sabotage the [Affordable Care Act,] to scare people and bring up red herrings.”
“This whole idea that’s being brought up today that somehow policies are being canceled,” Pallone said. “It’s just another red herring […] If I’m an insurance company, and all the sudden everyone is selling a better policy with better benefits at a lower price, I can’t continue to sell a lousy policy skeletal policy that doesn’t provide benefits and costs more because I’ll be out of the market. So that’s what’s happening here. Insurance companies are cancelling lousy health policies with high prices because they can’t compete.”
Sebelius did apologize for the utter failure of the website designed to allow people to purchase insurance on individual exchanges.
“In these early weeks access to Healthcare.gov has been a miserable and frustrating experience for way too many Americans,” Sebelius said. “Let me say directly to these Americans. You deserve better. I apologize. I’m accountable to you for fixing these problems, and I’m committed to earning your confidence back by fixing the site.”