The Herald Bulletin

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November 6, 2013

Sebelius takes GOP criticism over ‘Obamacare’

WASHINGTON — Republicans blistered Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday over the nation's controversial health care law, bluntly challenging her honesty, pushing for her resignation and demanding unsuccessfully she concede that President Barack Obama deliberately misled the public about his signature domestic program.

"We're not in it to just give you a rough time. We're in it to try and hopefully get it right," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, at a hearing where Republicans — all of whom had voted against "Obamacare" — focused on the program's flawed sign-up website as well as costs, policy cancellations, security concerns and other issues.

During two hours in the Senate Finance Committee witness chair, Sebelius parried some thrusts and listened impassively to others. Treated more gently by Democrats than Republicans, she said at one point: "Clearly the opposition is still quite ferocious, and I'm just hoping that people understand what their options are, what their benefits could be and what their opportunities are."

She offered few if any concessions about a program she pointedly observed "passed both houses of Congress, was signed by the president and upheld by the Supreme Court."

Nor did she provide much in the way of new information about the launch of a website that she has conceded was deeply flawed. She disclosed that the so-called punch list for repairs had included "a couple of hundred functional fixes" at the time the administration launched its urgent rescue mission last month.

Even now, she said, "we're not where we need to be."

She added that the Web portal now is handling large volumes of material with fewer errors. However, as she testified, the website, www.healthcare.gov, was running sluggishly, with some users encountering difficulty and others receiving error messages.

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