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Sebelius says early enrollment on federal exchange will be low

November 8, 2013

Early enrollment numbers for the federal health insurance exchange will be “very low,” but include breakdowns by state and by private and Medicaid coverage, Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius told the Senate Finance Committee at a Nov. 6 hearing on the

health insurance exchanges
that launched Oct. 1. “The consumer experience on the web gets better every day and…by the end of November we’re committed to having the site working smoothly for the vast majority of users,” Sebelius said. “But we don’t have the fully functioning system yet that consumers need and deserve. We do have a plan in place to identify, prioritize and manage the remaining fixes across the system.” The website allows uninsured individuals and their families to purchase health insurance coverage effective Jan. 1. The agency expects to release the early enrollment numbers next week.

During her opening statement Sebelius said that “a number of fixes have already been completed” to the website HealthCare.gov. “Two weeks ago, the tech team put into place enhanced monitoring tools for HealthCare.gov, enabling us to get a high-level picture of the marketplace application responding, and to measure how changes improve user experience on the site.”

In her second appearance on Capitol Hill since the Oct. 1 rollout of Healthcare.gov, the HHS secretary turned aside calls for a delay in major provisions of the law.

“Delaying the Affordable Care Act would not delay people’s cancer or diabetes or Parkinson’s disease,” Sebelius said. “It would not delay the need for mental health services or cholesterol screenings or prenatal care. Delaying the Affordable Care Act doesn’t delay the foreclosure notices for families forced into bankruptcy by unpayable medical bills.”

A day earlier, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner told the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee that “users can now successfully create an account and continue through the full application and enrollment process.” She said CMS can “process nearly 17,000 registrants per hour, or 5 per second, with almost no errors.”