CMS Administrator Refuses to Release Obamacare Enrollment Figures

Marilyn Tavenner emphasizes steps being taken to fix website during testimony

October 29, 2013

Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Marilyn Tavenner refused to release the number of people who have enrolled in the federal exchange through the website during congressional testimony Tuesday.

Republican lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee rattled off questions seeking clarification on these issues and the overall progress of the legislation.

The administration has not released numbers showing how many of those applicants actually enrolled despite announcing the completion of nearly 700,000 applications.

Tavenner did not provide that number.

"That number will not be available until mid-November," Tavenner said. "We expect the initial number to be small … that was the case in Massachusetts as well."

"Are you getting those number?" asked Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.).

"Am I getting those numbers? Not yet," Tavenner said.

"You have no numbers on who’s enrolled? ... So no one is even forwarding weekly updates?" Camp pressed, noting he realized she could not provide the numbers to the committee.

Throughout questioning by Camp and other committee members, Tavenner frequently repeated, "we will have those numbers in mid-November."

Tavenner shifted blame for the botched rollout of the president’s health care legislation, but maintained that the legislation is sound.

"We have a system that’s working," Tavenner told Rep. Kevin Brady (R., Texas). "I’m saying it’s working it’s just not working at the speed and success rate we want."

"To address the technical challenges with, we are putting in place tools and processes to aggressively monitor and identify parts of where individuals are encountering errors or having difficulty using the site, so we can prioritize and address them … our team has called in additional help to solve some of the more complex technical issues we are encountering," Tavenner said in her prepared statement.

The White House hopes to have 7 million individuals enrolled in the new health care exchanges by March 31, 2014.

Tavenner shot down a question from Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) that the administration had requested these numbers not be divulged, saying "we made a group decision that we would release those numbers in mid-November."

Tavenner is the first administration official to testify since the Oct. 1 rollout.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will appear before the Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday.