During a House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on Thursday, the top Obamacare implementation official for the administration refused to answer “yes” or “no” when asked whether Obamacare’s exchanges will be ready for Americans to enroll in on Oct. 1.
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) asked Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight director Gary Cohen if the Obamacare exchanges will be ready on Oct. 1, as the law requires. Burgess told Cohen “yes” or “no.”
Instead, Cohen first replied: “Consumers will be able to go online, they’ll be able to get a determination of whatever tax subsidies they’re eligible for, they’ll be able to look at the plans that are available wherever they live, they will be able to see the premium net of subsidy that they would have to pay, and they would be able to choose a plan and enroll in coverage, beginning Oct. 1.”
Burgess then followed up: “Let me rephrase the question: Will the enrollment process be ready on Oct. 1?”
“I have nothing further to add to my answer,” Cohen replied.
Then Burgess pointed out that Cohen’s “answer sounded like it could be a ‘yes,’ but left room for a ‘no.’ So we’ll mark down an equivocal response to that question.”
Burgess followed up by asking: “Will the exchanges be ready by Jan. 1 of 2014?”
“Consumers will be able to – it’s the same answer,” Cohen responded.
Then when Burgess pressed further for a yes or no answer and noted that Cohen “is in charge,” Cohen responded that his answers are “based on what I’ve been told by the people who are building the IT system. So it’s my understanding.”
Burgess also pressured Cohen on why certain Navigators, activists who have been granted government contracts to go around America enrolling Americans in Obamacare, have been granted millions of dollars worth of contracts on the basis they would go door-to-door, even though they are not technically allowed to go to door-to-door.
Burgess brought this line of questioning he had with Cohen up during the Thursday Conversations with Conservatives (CWC) press event the Heritage Foundation’s Rob Bluey hosted.
“I just came from a very long hearing with the head of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight,” Burgess said at the CWC event. “That is essentially the implementation part of CMS [Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services] putting the Affordable Care Act into place. They cannot tell you, they cannot answer a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question: ‘Are you going to be ready on October 1 for open enrollment?’ They will not answer the question: ‘Will you be ready for people to be covered January 1?’ They came back at you with some sort of nebulous, roundabout, but they would not answer a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question on the record. I think that’s very telling. And the other thing is we know these ‘Navigators’ now, these Navigator grants went out late. People were not trained. We were told this morning and one of the statements made was that there will be no door to door. And yet, one of the contracts they approved is for door-to-door soliciting of people with Navigator grants. This particular Navigator group was awarded a $1.2 million contract. My question to Mr. Cohen was: ‘Can we have the money back since you said they will not go door to door and they were approved for a contract by going door to door?’ This is the kind of stuff that has been hidden in the Affordable Care Act. This is what the American people are seeing through and saying, ‘you guys got to help us on this.'”
WATCH REP. BURGESS QUESTION OBAMACARE’S IMPLEMENTATION CHIEF: