Unfazed by HealthCare.gov improvements, GOP criticism rolls on


The administration announced Sunday that they had made significant improvements to HealthCare.gov, meeting a self-imposed end-of-November deadline to improve the site, and, they can only hope, prompting a wave of sign ups now that error rates should drop significantly.

The news was largely met by radio silence from the GOP - no doubt the byproduct of a long holiday weekend - but also reflects the reality that Republicans have shifted their fight against Obamacare to focus on the underlying legislation rather than just the problems with the rollout of the website.  

"I do hope that the efficacy of this is much better today and will improve. But at the end of the day, while there will be a few winners, most Americans are going to find a less dynamic health system. They're going to find that the cost of the health care that they're able to purchase is going to be a lot higher. And they're also going to realize that their choices are far less," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday. Corker and Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., who also appeared on "Face the Nation," said Republicans should offer up their own "market-driven" reforms to show they have a plan to improve the U.S. health care system.

Even if the site shows dramatic improvement, the House is set to hold four separate hearings on the law this week as they return from the Thanksgiving recess. The Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee has a hearing planned on how the Medicare Advantage program will be affected by the law. The Small Business Committee will look at the effects on small businesses, and the Ways and Means Committee will broadly examine the law's effects on Americans. The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a field hearing on the law's implementation in Apache Junction, Ariz., on Saturday.

The few members of the GOP who spoke publicly about the administration's news Sunday seemed largely unconcerned that it might lead Americans to embrace the law that has hit new lows in opinion polls. A CBS News poll taken in November found that approval of the Affordable Care Act had dropped to an all-time low of 31 percent, down 12 points from the month before. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they disapproved strongly of the law.

"You never get a second chance to make a first impression and the first impression here was terrible. And I think it's going to be an unfolding disaster for the president," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., on ABC's "This Week."

"There are going to be some winners, there's no question about that, but there are going to be millions of losers, too. People are going to find their rates going up, people that have insurance they like are going to be losing it. It's one of the reasons for the postponement of the business mandate," Cole said. "I think as that unfolds, this thing is going to be an unmitigated political disaster for the president."

Republican talking points leaked before the holiday break showed that the main messages lawmakers were urged to carry home to their districts do not, in fact, revolve around the website. The "key message continued" that representatives should push is "Because of Obamacare, I Lost My Insurance," according to a copy of the document shared with the New York Times. The two emerging themes: "Obamacare Increases Health Care Costs" and "The Exchanges May Not Be Secure, Putting Personal Information at Risk."

That was the tack taken by Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"Here's the most important part of this discussion that nobody talks about: The security of this site and the private information does not meet even the minimal standards of the private sector and that concerns me. I don't care if you're for it or against it, Republican or Democrat, we should not tolerate the sheer level of incompetence securing this site," said Rogers.

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    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.