Former Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who infamously presided over HealthCare.gov’s flop, swore Monday that her administration was “forthright with the American public” about Obamacare.
“We were very forthright with the American public — I think members of Congress who wrote this legislation were very forthright,” Sebelius said on CNN’s “New Day.” “It was both about — having affordable coverage was certainly a piece of it, but also people getting coverage they didn’t have.”
Sebelius finally addressed MIT economist and Obamacare adviser Jonathan Gruber’s comments about how the health law’s authors hid the true meaning of several provisions from the American public. Gruber said it was possible due to the “stupidity of the American voter” and gloated that lying was worth it to get Obamacare passed. Sebelius, following current HHS secretary Sylvia Burwell’s comments earlier this month, completely denied Gruber’s charges.
“I think that Professor Gruber’s comments are just offensive and flat-out wrong — there couldn’t have been more open discussions,” Sebelius said. “There were dozens of hearings and mark-ups and analysis. There were five committees in Congress; this went on for months and months, so the notion that somehow this was a secret or that the tax frame was a secret is just really ludicrous.”
Gruber was especially candid in explaining how he helped President Barack Obama craft the Cadillac tax, which will begin hitting high-value health plans with a massive 40 percent excise tax in 2018, in order to deceive the public. As the Affordable Care Act is written, the Cadillac tax will eventually encompass health plans that aren’t actually high-value due to inflation, pushing many out of employer plans entirely. (RELATED: Years of Obamacare Problems Are Still On The Way)
The Senate and the House both wrote different versions of a health-care bill with many differing provisions, and the country is still trying to nail down the basic provisions of the final law. The Supreme Court will hear one case, King v. Burwell, next session and determine whether a majority of Obamacare customers are receiving premium subsidies illegally. (RELATED: Report: HHS Waffled On Federal Obamacare Subsidies Question)
Sebelius also addressed the meltdown of HealthCare.gov on her watch.
“I was very happy to stay through the roll-out initially, and we had a disastrous eight weeks, there’s no excuse for that, the website was flawed and for eight weeks it was really miserable,” Sebelius said.
“The good news is by the end of December when coverage started we had a million people sign up and by the end of open enrollment we had almost 8 million people and by the time we got to October of this year, about 6.7 million of those folks have new coverage and governors [in] red and blue states expanded Medicaid. That’s a great legacy and I’m really proud of that.” (RELATED: CMS Propped Up Obamacare Enrollment Total With Dental Plans)