Nightmares continue as HHS Secretary Sebelius Testifies before Congress

By Dave Andrusko

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifying today.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifying today.

Kathleen Sebelius, currently the Secretary of Health and Human Services, was once governor of Kansas. Pro-lifers remembered how resolutely she advanced the pro-abortion agenda and thwarted the wishes of a state which had become more and more pro-life during the time she was governor, 2002-2008.

From the single-issue pro-life perspective, her most spot-on comment as she testified today before the House Energy and Commerce Committee was positively Obamaesque (as in “I didn’t know” or “I don’t know”).

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) asked, “If someone, a constituent of mine or someone in this country, has strongly-held pro-life views, can you commit to us to make sure that the federal exchanges that offer that are clearly identified and so people can understand if they’re going to buy a policy that has abortion coverage or not, because right now you cannot make that determination.”

“Sir I don’t know,” Sebelius responded. “I know exactly the issue you’re talking about. I will check and make sure that is clearly identifiable.”

[“Check”?]

Rep. Shimkus continued:

”Here’s our request: Can you provide for the committee the list of insurers in the federal exchange who do not offer as part of their package abortion coverage?”

Sebelius first said, “I think we can do that, sir,” which was not specific enough for Rep. Shimkus. Sebelius then responded with a testy, “I can’t tell you what I don’t know firmly right now. I know that is the plan, I will get that information to you.” When?

But even those who were her staunchest opponents, then or now, might have felt a twinge of sympathy (mixed with loads of exasperation) as the day progressed. Consider what happened.

Even as she continued to assure committee members that the “miserably frustrating” problems with the health-insurance Web site would soon be fixed (by the end of November), HealthCare.gov was down most of the morning. Since that is par for the course going back to October 1, nothing surprising.

But what grew in significance is the whole question of how secure people’s data is. The Washington Post reported about an internal September 27 HHS memo “that warned that the system had not been sufficiently tested, ‘exposing a level of uncertainty that can be deemed high risk,’ although the authors of the memo did not appear to have a specific vulnerability in mind.”

Here’s the key paragraphs from the story by William Branigin and Sandhya Somashekhar:

“Questioning Sebelius about the security issue, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) cited ‘a security break that arose recently’ and asked Sebelius if she were confident that the new system would ‘secure the financial information that applicants have to disclose.’

“Sebelius said she does have that confidence, adding that ‘there was not a breach’ but a ‘theoretical problem’ raised by a ‘skilled hacker.’ She said the problem ‘was immediately fixed.’

“Committee Republicans were not convinced.

“’You accepted a risk on behalf of every person . . . that put their personal and financial information at risk because you did not even have the most basic ‘end-to-end’ test on security of this system,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) told Sebelius. ‘Amazon would never do this. ProFlowers would never do this. Kayak would never do this.’”

Three other developments that warrant attention. First, check out http://swampland.time.com/2013/10/30/another-glitch-americans-could-miss-out-on-obamacare-subsidies-for-insurance-in-2014– “Another Glitch: How Some Americans Could Miss Out On Obamacare Subsidies In 2014.”

Kate Pickert’s analysis is complex but the bottom line is as simple as it is ominous. Remember the Administration’s assurance that “subsidies” will flow like milk and honey? (Never mind who pays for them.)

“Many Americans buying insurance coverage for 2014 may never get the chance to claim new federal tax credits to subsidize the cost of health insurance, due to an odd wrinkle in the signup process.”

Second, President Obama bragged on Monday, “There’s great demand at the state level as well. Because there are a bunch of states running their own marketplaces.” As CBS News noted this week, “But left unsaid in the president’s remarks: the newly insured in some of those states are overwhelmingly low-income people signing up for Medicaid at no cost to them.”

In other words, “[I]n many of the 15 state-based health insurance exchanges more people are enrolling in Medicaid rather than buying private health insurance. And if that trend continues, there’s concern there won’t be enough healthy people buying health insurance for the system to work.”

Third, there is a concerted effort by some in the mainstream media to treat President Obama’s other most prominent promise– ‘If You Like Your Plan, You Can Keep It’—as something we all should have known was just spin and/or a reflection of “Obama’s broad-stroke view of government,” meaning he shouldn’t be held accountable for saying things that were and are patently untrue.

This is either condescending to President Obama or unimaginably frightening.