Issues

Ellison’s Must Read of the Day

Ellison must read

My must read of the day is "Advice and Obamacare Consent," by the Wall Street Journal editorial board:

Kathleen Sebelius has been let out a rear door of the Health and Human Services Department, and her exit is an opportunity for getting some Obamacare accountability. President Obama tapped Sylvia Mathews Burwell as her replacement on Friday. The Senate should try to use her confirmation to expose the law's continuing troubles and improve HHS transparency. […]

Ms. Burwell should also be pressed to assess Obamacare's implementation so far and say what she would do differently. Amid multiple delays and executive rewrites that usually lack a legal basis, the enrollment deadline has been extended indefinitely. Large parts of the federal exchanges remain unbuilt, including small business services and the back-end operations that pass on subsidies to insurers. Major rules are unwritten, including the final employer mandate regulation.

Burwell certainly seems like a more competent pick for HHS secretary than Sebelius was.

She has served under two administrations, and when it comes to budget issues, she was able to—at least occasionally—help build consensus in a divided government. That shouldn’t go unrecognized, but when I spoke to staffers on the Hill, they told me she’s been difficult to work with on more specific budget issues because she is a bit of a "party loyalist."

Regardless of the person, any new nominee for HHS should face intense scrutiny as they go through the confirmation process. Democrats should want that as well.

There’s a host of missing information Republicans will ask about, such as how many plans have actually been paid for, but Democrats should hammer Burwell on questions regarding how she would have rolled out Healthcare.gov the first time.

She’ll have to deal with the website again, and Democrats should worry about facing website problems in the next open enrollment. After all, it was just three months ago the (now former) director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight testified before a House subcommittee that the payment systems on Healthcare.gov were still not complete.

There are many questions for Burwell, and even if she has a solid record when it comes to dealing with the budget she should face a steep climb before she’s confirmed. Democrats should be the ones giving her the most difficult time, because the reputation of the law will be riding on what she does in the next open enrollment and the next two years.