Former WH official, Republicans slam HHS for flawed Obamacare rollout

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, April 12, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on President Barack Obama's budget proposal for fiscal year 2014, and the HHS. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

In the wake of the botched rollout of the online Obamacare marketplace, some Republicans are saying it's time for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to go. At least one former Obama administration official agrees that someone, if not Sebelius, should get fired for the problems with HealthCare.gov.

The website's launch was "excruciatingly embarrassing for the White House and for the Department of Health and Human Services," former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on MSNBC on Monday. "I hope they're working day and night to get this done, and when they get it fixed, I hope they fire some people that were in charge of making sure this thing was supposed to work."

Health and Human Services spent almost $394 million over three years in contracts, according to one government report, to build the online marketplace (referred to as an exchange) on which consumers in 36 states can shop for private insurance. Yet from day one the site was plagued with problems that the administration initially referred to as technical glitches.

The administration has acknowledged the problems are more than just glitches and says it is working to fix the technical issues.

Gibbs said Monday the rollout was "bungled badly" but isn't necessarily "fatal" to the success of Obamacare since open enrollment for 2014 coverage lasts through March.

On Friday, HHS said it was still working to improve the site but that the continued traffic on HealthCare.gov indicated the high level of interest in Obamacare; in its first 10 days, the site had 14.6 million unique visits. The agency has yet to say how many people have actually enrolled for insurance through the site at this point.

"We won't stop improving HealthCare.gov until its doors are wide open, and at the end of the six-month open enrollment, millions of Americans gain affordable coverage," HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said in a statement Friday.

In an op-ed published in Politico on Tuesday, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus argued that Sebelius should be fired.

"How much more money will her department waste -- and how much time will Americans waste on the website -- before the administration admits they have a problem?" he wrote. "In a business, someone would be held accountable for such a large-scale disaster."

A couple congressional Republicans have also called for Sebelius' replacement.

"For the sake of the American health care system, as well as jobs and the economy, Obamacare should be repealed," Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said in a statement Monday. "In the meantime, someone must be held accountable for wasting taxpayer dollars on a rollout that was more than three years in the making."

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, said on Friday that Sebelius "won't shoot straight with the American people."

He added, "In the absence of a full repeal of Obamacare, which is my preference, we need new leadership from top to bottom. I am calling on the Secretary to resign."

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