By Jonathan Easley - 10-29-13 12:24 PM ET
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is kicking back at the contractors who blamed her agency for the botched ObamaCare website rollout.
Sebelius blames a “subset” of contractors who “have not met expectations” for the website’s problems in an opening statement she’ll deliver Wednesday to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
She’ll tell the panel that the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) used private contractors to administer aspects of Medicare, but that some failed in handling the ObamaCare website.
“CMS has a track record of successfully overseeing the many contractors our programs depend on to function,” she will say, according to testimony posted Tuesday on the committee website. “Unfortunately, a subset of those contracts for HealthCare.gov have not met expectations.”
Committee members last week heard testimony from representatives of four of the largest contractors tasked with building the website.
The contractors denied responsibility for the system's problems, and charged that HHS had failed to effectively coordinate the project. They also said that they didn’t have enough time to properly test the site.
CMS head Marilyn Tavenner similarly blamed problems with contractors in testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday. But Tavenner began by apologizing for the troubled launch.
“I want to apologize to [the American people] that the website has not worked as well as it should,” Tavenner said. “We know how desperately you need affordable coverage … this initial experience has not lived up to our expectations or the expectations of the American people, and it is not acceptable.”
As the head of HHS and the public face of the rollout, Sebelius will face a considerably more contentious hearing than what Tavenner sat through on Tuesday.
Dozens of Republican lawmakers have called on Sebelius to resign. The HHS secretary has pushed back at her critics, saying she doesn’t work for those calling on her to step down.
Sebelius has also blamed Republicans for some of the problems with the rollout, saying they’ve attempted to undermine the law at every stage.
On Monday, three House Republicans sent a letter to Sebelius asking her to clarify those remarks.
The lawmakers said that the secretary is seeking to “blame House Republicans and the government shutdown for your failure to provide a workable product,” and asked her to respond to nine questions about how and when HealthCare.gov was tested, if a delay was ever considered, what last-minute changes were made and who authorized them.
Tavenner on Tuesday testified that she never pushed Sebelius to delay the exchanges. The HHS secretary has said before that a delay was never considered because getting people healthcare coverage trumped problems with the website.