U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is explaining issues with the healthcare.gov website. She says President Obama did not know about the technical glitches that have hampered the website until days after it went live.
Sebelius says that the President didn’t find about the problems with the site until a few days after its October 1st launch. The secretary added that the appointment of a technical team headed by Obama administration official Jeff Zients will help get the situation under control as soon as possible.
Sebelius prepared a radio address for her home state of Kansas. The following is a transcript of it, with the audio attached as well:
“Hello. This is Kathleen Sebelius. It was such a great honor to serve the people of Kansas as your governor, and it’s an honor to continue serving you as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
I want to talk with you today about what the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, means to the Sunflower State.
You know, for the past three and a half years, the opponents of the Affordable Care Act have made a number of misstatements and over-the-top predictions about this historic new law. And the predictions had one thing in common: they didn’t come true.
And yet, even as these predictions have been so wrong, the attacks continue today. So let me take a moment to set the record straight.
For the 86% of Kansans who already have health coverage, you don’t have to do anything. But the new law is already making your coverage stronger.
If you are one of the 448,000 Kansans who are on Medicare, you are already benefitting in a number of ways:
You now have an annual wellness visit as well as access to preventive care, like cancer and cholesterol screenings, with no co-pays.
In fact, most health plans for adults and children alike now include these preventive services, with no fees or co-pays.
Meanwhile, costs are being held down in an historic fashion. In fact, across the country, the growth in health care costs has been constrained to the lowest rate in nearly 50 years. And seniors are paying less for their prescription drugs. Last year, tens of thousands of Kansas seniors saved an average of more than $600 a piece.
Young folks are benefitting as well. 25,000 young adults in Kansas, who were otherwise uninsured, now have coverage on their parents’ plans.
And the parents of more than 166,500 Kansas children who have pre-existing health conditions no longer have to toss and turn at night in fear that their insurance companies would deny their children coverage. That’s now against the law.
More than $4 million in refunds are being sent from insurance companies to the over 83,000 Kansas customers this year. The new law says that companies must spend at least 80 cents of your premium dollar on your care, rather than administrative costs or ad campaigns. And if they don’t, they owe money back to their customers.
So if you already have coverage, like 86% of Kansans, you are already benefitting under the new law.
But if you are one of the 327,000 Kansans who don’t have coverage – or if you purchase coverage in the individual market – the new law is giving you new choices. And you also might be eligible for some financial help to pay for your premiums.
Now, Kansans can choose between multiple insurance companies who have to compete for your business based on price and service. And the rates in our state are significantly lower than predicted. And they’re also lower than rates in most parts of the country.
No one will be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, which happens each and every day in the individual market today, and women will no longer be charged more than men just because of their gender.
There’s no doubt that the October 1st launch of the Marketplace website was very frustrating.
We’re working hard to make sure that HealthCare.gov is easy to use and understand. Many improvements have already been made in the last two weeks and more are coming. Clearly, millions of Americans are eager to know the facts about their new options and how they can get health security for themselves and their families.
But, to be clear, no one has lost their chance to enroll for coverage in these early days, and no one is losing health benefits. Open enrollment extends through the end of March. And if you want your benefits to start on the very first day possible, on January 1, 2014, you have until December 15th to enroll in a plan.
In addition to enrolling online, you can also sign up over the phone. We have trained representatives standing by to answer your questions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And we can answer questions in up to 150 languages. They can help walk you all the way through enrollment and sign up for a plan. You can reach them at 1-800-318-2596.
Now some of you may be asking “what’s the big deal?” Why do I really need health insurance in the first place?
Let me give you just one example that I recently heard from Dr. Roy Jenson of the University of Kansas: if you are uninsured and diagnosed with cancer, the research shows that you are 60% more likely to die within 5 years than if you have health insurance.
The truth is we are all just an accident or unexpected diagnosis away from a devastating medical bill if we don’t have insurance.
The Affordable Care Act provides funding for states to expand Medicaid– in fact; the federal government pays 100% in the first three years, and never less than 90% in years after that.
The expansion is fully paid for in the bill and doesn’t add a dime to the federal deficit.
Now, we’re currently working with Republican and Democratic governors in Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Colorado and across the country to expand Medicaid eligibility.
We have 169,000 Kansans could be covered if our state moves forward. Otherwise, many hardworking low income Kansans will be left behind with no affordable health options.
Kansas hospitals, the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and many business leaders support Medicaid expansion. And independent studies project it could create 4,000 Kansas jobs, while bringing $3.5 billion into the Sunflower State economy.
I meet so many Kansans who have been waiting years – in some cases their entire lives – for health coverage that is finally within their reach.
The Affordable Care Act has already delivered for this state – and it’s just getting started.
Now, in football terms, we’re early in the first quarter. While our opponents want to declare “game over,” I’m confident that by the end of open enrollment, we will have millions of Americans, and thousands of Kansans, with health security they never thought possible.”