By Ken Thomas
WASHINGTON -- Republicans said Sunday they intend to press Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the Obama administration's troubled launch of healthcare.gov, the online portal to buy insurance, and concerns about the privacy of information that applicants submit under the new system.
Meanwhile, the healthcare.gov application and enrollment system was down Sunday afternoon because the company that hosts the site had an Internet outage. A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, Joanne Peters, wrote on Twitter that Terremark (TRMK), the hosting company, was "working to fix ASAP."
The Obama administration will face intense pressure next week to be more forthcoming about how many people have actually succeeded in enrolling for coverage in the new insurance markets. Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner is to testify during a House hearing Tuesday, followed Wednesday by Sebelius before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The officials will also be grilled on how such crippling technical problems could have gone undetected prior to the Web site's Oct. 1 launch."The incompetence in building this Web site is staggering," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the second-ranking Republican on the panel and an opponent of the law. Democrats said the new system needed time to get up and running, and it could be fixed to provide millions of people with affordable insurance. Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky, a Democrat, said the system was "working in Kentucky," a state that has dealt with "some of the worst health statistics in the country. ... The only way we're going to get ourselves out of the ditch is some transformational tool," like the new health insurance system. Blackburn said she wanted to know much has been spent on the Web site, how much more it will cost to fix the problems, when everything will be ready and what people should expect to see on the site. Blackburn and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) raised questions of whether the Web site could guard the privacy of applicants. "The way the system is designed it is not secure," said Rogers, who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.