HealthCare.gov: Day 38 and woes continue

There's at least one casualty to the problem-plagued HealthCare.gov: A Medicare official who oversaw the launch of the website is leaving to take a job in the private sector, according to the Washington Post.

It's unclear whether the Obama administration asked Tony Trenkle to step down as chief information officer for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the agency that built the healthcare reform portal, or he stepped down on his own. Since its launch on Oct. 1, users attempting to access the portal and complete health plan applications have experienced delays and error messages. And the administration has admitted only six people enrolled in health plans through HealthCare.gov on its first day of operation, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

The Post reports Trenkle's last day of work is Nov. 15 after eight years with the agency. Dave Nelson, who is currently the director of the office of enterprise management, will serve as acting CIO after Trenkle's departure.

The announcement comes in the wake of U.S. Department of Health &Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' testimony Wednesday that despite hundreds of problems with HealthCare,gov, the government won't shut down the marketplace or delay parts of the reform law. She told a Senate Finance Committee that tech experts assessed the website's flaws and determined it's possible to fix the portal. "Healthcare.gov is fixable. It isn't fatally flawed," Sebelius said. "It's better to do routine upgrades."

Meanwhile, following reports of cancellation letters sent to members because plans don't meet healthcare reform's essential health benefits, lawmakers are trying to gather support for bills to delay penalties under the Affordable Care Act or at least allow individuals to hold on to their existing health plans, FierceHealthPayer reports. One such bill introduced Monday in the Senate, would let insurers maintain any individual plan they currently offer but they must disclose which aspects of the plan don't comply with the healthcare reform law.

Some states are putting pressure directly on insurers. Earlier this week, the California insurance commissioner and Blue Shield of California made a deal to delay by three months the cancellation of more than 115,000 individual policies. And Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin wants a similar deal, asking Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and MVP Health Care, the state's two dominant carriers, to let members keep their plans through March 31.

Despite all the turmoil surrounding the website, President Barack Obama continues to defend the merits of the Affordable Care Act, the New York Times reports. "As challenging as this may seem sometimes, as frustrating as HealthCare.gov may be sometimes, we are going to get this done," Obama said during a visit on Wednesday to Dallas. "We're on the right side of history."

For more:
- here's the Washington Post article
- read the New York Times piece

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