He also said there will be hiccups and mistakes—as well as misinformation about the law until the next Election Day—as implementation continues. “I am 110% committed to getting it done right,” the president said. “It's not an easy undertaking. But if it were easy, it would have been done a long time ago.”
A day earlier, HHS announced about $150 million in ACA funding to help community health centers provide in-person enrollment assistance to consumers about the insurance exchanges, qualified health plans, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.
Mary Wakefield, a CMS administrator, clarified that this money was set aside in the Affordable Care Act specifically for health centers and did not come from the law's Prevention and Public Health Fund. The administration's use of the fund for education and public outreach has drawn criticism from public health advocates and some Democrats, including Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who temporarily held up Tavenner's confirmation as CMS administrator over the issue.
“Right now, we have about 4,000 outreach workers across community health centers,” Wakefield said. The administration, she said, hopes to double that number.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) issued a statement late last week responding to a news report that Sebelius has been asking health insurance executives to make large donations to help with the effort. Hatch said such a strategy would be “absurd” and that he would seek information to explore potential conflicts of interest and violations of federal law. An HHS spokesman said the administration is “working with a full range of stakeholders who share in the mission of getting Americans the help they need and deserve.”
House Republicans, meanwhile, are gearing up for another vote this week to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The House voted to overturn the law in 2011 and 2012, and this latest vote offers new House members in the 113th Congress a chance to show their home districts where they stand on the law, Republican leaders said. The lower chamber has voted on more than 30 bills that seek to dismantle the law, either in full or in part.
The vote is a symbolic one and has no chance of passing in the Senate. “We want to provide freshman and all other members an opportunity to have their voices heard on Obamacare as its implementation kicks in and the American public sees healthcare costs rise, quality of care reduced and people getting kicked off their preferred plan,” Megan Whittemore, a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), said in an e-mail.
Follow Jessica Zigmond on Twitter: @MHjzigmond