Politics
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius arrives to testify at the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee on "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Implementation Failures: What U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius arrives to testify at the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee on "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Implementation Failures: What's Next?" on Capitol Hill in Washington December 11, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS HEALTH) - RTX16E20  

Sebelius says Obamacare premiums will go up next year

Photo of Patrick Howley
Patrick Howley
Political Reporter

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted Wednesday that Obamacare premiums will probably go up in 2015, that she does not know how many Obamacare customers have paid their premiums, and that she does not know how many Obamacare enrollees had insurance previously.

“I think premiums are likely to go up, but go up at a slower pace” than they did previously, Sebelius admitted at Wednesday’s House Ways and Means Committee hearing.

“I can’t tell you that, sir, because I don’t know that,” Sebelius said when asked by Georgia Rep. Tom Price how many Obamacare customers have paid their first premiums. Sebelius said she also does not know how many Obamacare customers previously had insurance plans that were canceled.

The Obama administration has delayed many provisions of the Obamacare law until after the 2014 midterms, including the economically consequential employer mandate.

The administration’s inability to meet its goal for enrolling young, healthy “invincibles” on the Obamacare exchanges has mired the entire Obamacare program in the so-called “death spiral,” which drives up health insurance rates because older, sicker people are primarily signing up.

Lawmakers at Wednesday morning’s hearing grilled Sebelius on the impact of the employer mandate, taxpayer-funded contractor costs related to the glitch-ridden Obamacare enrollment website, and the administration’s inability to meet its original goal of enrolling seven million people in Obamacare.

“Even though you’re pushing those mandates off,” businesses are still making changes including freezing hiring and reducing hours for staff, said Republican Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan in his questioning of Sebelius. ”I don’t know how much more burden we can put on employers.”

“We are watching, as I say, that very closely,” Sebelius said.

Georgia Rep. Tom Price characterized a “growing lack of trust” in government because “real people are getting harmed” by Obamacare and asked about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s comments that negative Obamacare stories are “all lies.”

“Congressman, I did not hear what Senator Reid said, and of course there are a lot of anecdotes” that indicate success for Obamacare, Sebelius said. “I don’t want to comment on” Reid’s comments.

Follow Patrick on Twitter