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Roskam tells of local residents' struggles with healthcare website

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 3:02 p.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 12:30 a.m. CST

Four weeks after the launch of the Obama Administration's malfunctioning healthcare website, the House Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing in Washington Tuesday to address the problems with the site.

Since Oct. 1 HealthCare.gov has experienced numerous glitches, and Democratic and Republican lawmakers addressed questions directly to Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service and the “quarterback of Obamacare,” as she was referred to by several congressmen Tuesday.

Committee member Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) expressed his displeasure with not only the technological issues, but also the unexpected consequences of the healthcare law that he said his constituents have faced.

Roskam identified 57-year-old breast cancer survivor Diane Isser from Hoffman Estates who was told Blue Cross and Blue Shield could no longer offer her current level of coverage, and her rate was going to jump from $363 a month to $713 a month.

Roskam also mentioned Lake in the Hills human resources consultant Denise Benages who has spent “countless hours” helping other companies navigate the exchanges. She has tried nearly every day to get access to HealthCare.gov had has yet to fully finish the application without an error message or glitch.

“Administratively, it's scary,” Benages told the Northwest Herald Tuesday. “I know what I'm doing and I'm still having trouble getting through the site.”

Tavenner pointed to two major problems with HealthCare.gov. First, the CMS underestimated the amount of people that would initially access the site. Roughly five times the number of people logged on to the site than they expected. Second, there were glitches in the application process of HealthCare.gov, which Tavenner said are being fixed.

The website is expected to be fixed by the end of November, Tavenner said.

While most lawmakers, regardless of party affiliation, were critical of the technological glitches, many Democrats lauded the Affordable Care Act for its ability to provide quality care at low cost to Americans who otherwise would not have been covered.

Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) said the launch has gone “extremely well in Illinois,” and pointed to the more that 28,000 submitted applications to ABE Illinois, the state's online portal to accessing the health insurance exchange.

Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) said people “can't get caught up in glitches and technical difficulties,” and the Affordable Care Act fixes America's biggest problem, which is the lack of access of quality health insurance.

But Republicans were steadfast in their belief that the healthcare law was fundamentally flawed and that the technological issues were only the beginning of the problem. Aaron Schock (D-Ill.) read quotes from President Obama on the WhiteHouse.gov website stating that Obamacare would not force people from their current healthcare provider, and then listed several of his constituents to which that happened.

Benages said she was “never one of those people who wanted to defund Obamacare,” but the problems with HealthCare.gov are bigger than she ever anticipated.

“I personally come from a place where I believe in the spirit of this law,” she said. “People need to be insured. And it shouldn't bankrupt you … it just shouldn't be this hard and confusing.”

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