Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is surrounded by photographers on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, prior to testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the difficulties plaguing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
While his top health care administrator takes questions from a Congressional committeetoday, President Obama is headed to Boston to try to bolster public support for the national health care law, beset by technological woes and claims that the program is not as advertised. Here’s a look at some of the news coverage in the lead-up to his visit.
Christopher Rowland writes in today’s Boston Globe that the administration faced a new round of criticism this week:
...[T]he administration was forced Tuesday to deflect the latest round of complaints about the health plan debut — this time that hundreds of thousands of Americans are receiving notices canceling coverage, mostly of bare-bones, individual health plans that do not meet new minimum standards.
Republicans in Congress cited the cancellations to contend that Obama broke his own promise in 2009 that Americans under his law could keep their existing insurance, if they liked it. The president’s promise ultimately did not square with the fine print of the 2010 act, which prohibits insurance plans that offer patchy, weak benefits beginning in 2014.
News of widespread cancellations spread as officials and a squad of private contractors labored behind the scenes to fix the faulty Affordable Care Act marketplace websites, which have prevented people from signing up for subsidized insurance.
“It appears more people have received cancellation notices this month than have enrolled in the exchanges,’’ said David Camp, Republican of Michigan and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, as he convened a hearing to consider the problems.
Obama’s speech is expected to draw comparisons between the Affordable Care Act and the 2006 Massachusetts health care law that became the model, highlighting how the state program started slow but has improved health care access and lowered premium costs for many families here.
I wrote in today’s Globe about how the rollout of the state and federal programs and the websites that launched them were quite different:
The [Massachusetts Health] Connector launched its website incrementally over 15 months, delaying the enrollment period for some who received subsidies because the website wasn’t ready yet.
Meanwhile, the Legislature passed three bills in 2006 and 2007 to make technical changes to the law, correcting oversights or fixing problems found as the site was developed.
“Things could evolve as it went along,” said James Roosevelt Jr., chief executive of Tufts Health Plan, which sells plans through the exchange. When those changes were made, “nobody said, ‘Oh, that shows that Romneycare is a total disaster.’ ”
Reuters talked to one Massachusetts resident who called the process of signing up for coverage under the 2006 state law “painless.” Reporter Roberta Rampton noted, as many have, that Connector was born from a very different political environment than what exists in Washington today:
It was only seven years ago that Robert Travaglini, then president of the Massachusetts senate, stood beside Kennedy as Romney signed the bill. But it seems as though it were a long-ago political era, Travaglini told Reuters.
“The whole spirit, the whole chemistry, was one of cooperation” at the time, Travaglini said in an interview.
“We had two major power players both working for the same goal. You don’t have that here! Everything is broken down,” he said.
That bipartisan spirit, however unlikely it may be today, is sure to be a main theme of Obama’s speech, the New York Times notes. Michael D. Shear writes:
During the 2012 campaign, Mr. Obama’s aides often took pleasure in noting that the president’s health care plan was closely modeled after Mr. Romney’s own effort — even as the Republican candidate became a frequent critic of the national version. The trip to Boston on Wednesday is designed to undermine Republican criticism in the Congress by highlighting the health care law’s Republican roots.
But the speech is unlikely to change many minds on Capitol Hill, where criticism of the president’s health law has become an article of faith regardless of who came up with the idea first.
And one person who won’t be at Faneuil Hall on Wednesday? White House aides confirmed they did not ask Mr. Romney to attend the speech.
“No,” said Mr. Simas, “there’s no outreach to Governor Romney.”