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POLITICS: PennAve

Takeaways from Kathleen Sebelius' testimony, part 2

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Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday testified before Congress about the troubled health care law rollout for the second time in two weeks.

Here's are some of the highlights of Sebelius's appearance before the Senate Finance Committee:

1. Few people will be signing up for Obamacare this year despite an administration goal of enrolling 1 million people through December. "Our early enrollment numbers are going to be very low," due to glitches with the healthcare.gov website, Sebelius said. The administration is now "updating those targets," she said.

2. Felons can apply. There is no requirement under the new health care law that so-called healthcare navigators submit to a criminal background check, even though they handle sensitive personal information, Sebelius said. She would consider such a requirement "if that's the will of Congress."

3. Website security risks were identified in August by the contractor Mitre Corp. and the Government Accountability Office. "No one, I would say, suggested that the risks outweighed the importance of moving forward," Sebelius said.

4. The healtcare.gov website hub does not collect Social Security numbers. Instead, personal information is verified by the Department of Homeland Security and the Internal Revenue Service. "The hub is just a router," Sebelius said."It's pinging the Homeland Security database, it's pinging the IRS database and it's pinging Social Security database. It is not storing unique information."

5. The Obama administration never promised insurance rates would decrease. Millions of Americans are facing higher insurance rates under the new health care law, but Sebelius said the increases are less than the Congressional Budget Office had predicted they'd be. "I didn't say they're going down," she said. "I said the rates are lower than was predicted."

6. Most existing individual insurance plans were meant to be eliminated. "Virtually 100 percent of people in the individual market are underwritten," Sebelius said. "If you're healthy, that's great. If you're not healthy, you are in terrible trouble. And these are folks who want health insurance. They're there because they want health insurance."

7. Extending the open enrollment period or postponing part of the law is not possible because it could cause rates to increase. "If we want to keep prices down, delay is not an option," Sebelius said.

8. Fixes are being made to the website, but they are far from finished. Sebelius said "hundreds" of fixes are needed and are now being made. "We're not where we need to be," Sebelius said. "It's a pretty aggressive schedule to get to the entire punch list by the end of November."

9. Enrollment numbers coming out next week will show how many people signed up on the insurance exchanges during Obamacare's first month. "We certainly will have a state breakdown," Sebelius said. "We certainly will have a differentiation between private coverage and Medicaid coverage. We intend to give you as much information as we can validate."

10. Health care call centers are busy. Sebelius said more than 2 million people have called the centers, "with average wait times of less than 30 seconds."

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