Sebelius on Obamacare Debacle: 'I Was Wrong'

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WASHINGTON - Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, under intense grilling from a House panel Wednesday, admitted culpability in the disastrous rollout of the Obamacare website.

Rep. Fred Upton, the Republican chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the hearing wasn't just about glitches in a website but a new health care system that's shocking many Americans.

"Today's hearing is about fairness for the American people who are losing their coverage or seeing their premiums skyrocket as high as 400 percent," the Michigan lawmaker charged. 

The White House has said President Obama “didn’t know” about specific issues with the website rollout. Some critics are saying that raises questions about the president’s competency? Is that fair? Jordan Sekulow, with the American Center for Law and Justice, answers this and more on, CBN Newswatch, Oct. 30. 

Still, the many failings of the system's main website came up repeatedly.

"The program has crashed and burned at least three times and the users are still having problems," Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, said. "It's been down the whole time you've been testifying."

Sebelius admitted to shortcomings throughout the hearing.

"I told the president that we were ready to go. Clearly I was wrong. We were wrong," she told the House panel. "We knew that in any new, big, complicated system, there would be problems. No one ever imagined the volume of issues and problems that we've had."

Some Republicans tried to get Sebelius to admit President Barack Obama is ultimately responsible.

"Who do you answer to?" Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., asked the HHS chief.

"I answer to the president," she replied.

"Okay, so the president ultimately is responsible. While I think it's great that you're a team player and you're taking responsibility, it is the president's ultimate responsibility, correct?" Harper said.

Democrats struck back often.

"I find it disconcerting that my Republican colleagues have done nothing but root for this law to fail for the last three-and-a-half years, and now there's a big show about being upset at problems with the website," Rep. Elliott Engel, D-N.Y., said.

Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers shared notes from constituents complaining about losing their health care plans.
    
"I received a letter stating the new health care law was indeed the reason for the removal of my current health care plan,'" Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., read a letter from a man named Sean.

"Madam Secretary, what would you tell Sean, who liked his plan and has now lost it, and he was promised by you and the President he'd be able to keep that plan?"

Critics say one key reason the cost of insurance is going up for so many people is that Obamacare forces them to buy more expensive policies that provide more coverage than they either want or really need.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told CBN News that many people will have to find out the hard way that the president's promises about Obamacare weren't true.

"We're discovering that when you get some of these plans, they don't have your doctor in it," he noted. "They don't have your hospital in it. So the president's promise that you can keep your doctor is going to, once again, prove not to be true."

Later Wednesday, the president heads to Massachusetts to ask Americans to be patient with the Affordable Care website.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.