It's All Politics
3:51 am
Thu October 24, 2013

Thursday Morning Political Mix: Healthcare Techs In Hot Seat

Good morning.

This is Washington, so there will be hearings.

Today's centerpiece of congressional inquiry bears the title, "Affordable Care Act Implementation Failures: Didn't Know or Didn't Disclose?" See where this is going?

The morning gathering will be the first in a promised series of GOP-led House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings into the implementation of Obamacare and its well-documented challenges.

The witness list is stocked with contractors in charge of the administration's snake-bit health care insurance sign-up website. Here's the lineup: Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president, CGI Federal; Andrew Slavitt, group executive vice president, Optum/Quality Software Services, Inc.; Lynn Spellecy, corporate counsel, Equifax Workforce Solutions; and John Lau, program director, Serco.

We anticipate finger-pointing.

The Associated Press reports that the contractors in testimony prepared for the committee will attempt to shift blame for problems to the administration. Late changes and lack of coordination, they say, bollixed up the system.

Slavitt in his prepared testimony, according to the AP, "blamed the administration, saying that a late decision to require consumers to create accounts before they could browse health plans contributed to the overload. 'This may have driven higher simultaneous usage of the registration system that wouldn't have occurred if consumers could window-shop anonymously,' he said."

You can read submitted testimony for yourself here.

Meanwhile, a handful of Senate Democrats, including two — Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas — who face difficult reelection races in 2014, have called on the administration to lengthen the Obamacare enrollment period.

At The Hill, Cameron Joseph writes that "Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, have signed onto Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's , D-N.H., push to extend the time in which uninsured people can buy insurance. Pryor also expressed concerns with the law's individual mandate — set to take effect next year — if the exchange website isn't fixed soon." Says Pryor:

"I believe, given the technical issues, it makes sense to extend the time for people to sign up. In addition, the administration should state clearly how the enforcement mechanism will work if people can't sign up in time. We all want to see the law work, and I hope the administration will take a hard look at this reasonable suggestion."

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who has overseen the health care act's rollout, is expected to testify next week.

Immigration

Also this morning, President Obama will attempt to reintroduce immigration into the Capitol Hill conversation, after weeks dominated by government shutdown, default, and health care battles.

The political bottom line, succinctly put by Marc Caputo in the Miami Herald, is this: "Obama jumps into immigration reform Thursday. Does this mean it's dead or alive?"

Here's his analysis:

1) The president wants to make good on his campaign promise to get it done, and this is a chance to work with the House.

2) The president knows the House won't pass it. So he wants the proverbial cat to die on their doorstep. And he wants Hispanics to know where the body lies.

The fact that GOP House Speaker John Boehner this week declared an immigration overhaul "important," did little to change anyone's perception of the political reality in the House.

In his morning speech, the president is expected to deliver what his aides characterize as a call for Congress to pass "common sense immigration reform."

Ted Cruz's Better? Other? Half

With Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz's recent elevation to the national stage, it was only a matter of time before his wife, Heidi, 41, began sharing the spotlight. Here's today's New York Times profile of the "vegetarian with a Harvard M.B.A." who's a managing director at Goldman Sachs.

Writes Ashley Parker: "She works for Goldman in Houston, where she lives with the couple's two young children, and as her husband's fame has increased — depending on the audience, he is among the most pilloried or revered members of the Senate — she has maintained a low profile."

And, finally, here's what we've also been reading about:

-Name change voter ID law confusion in Texas, reported by the Texas Tribune.

-Maryland Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler's supremely ill-advised teen drinking party attendance, reported by the Baltimore Sun.

-Debate in Illinois over minimum sentencing laws, reported by NPR's Cheryl Corley.

Oh, and we don't care about the rooms in Mitt Romney's new house, hidden or otherwise. Leave the man alone.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.