WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is defending the Affordable Care Act, calling it a “magnificent work” that will ultimately help millions of people who are currently uninsured or underinsured get health care coverage.
Rockefeller’s defense of the ACA, which is also called Obamacare, came during a U.S. Senate Finance Committee hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
During the hearing, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius testified about ongoing work to fix the problems with healthcare.gov, the enrollment portal for the federal insurance marketplace more than 30 states, including West Virginia, are using.
She said the goal is still to finish that work within the month.
“We are not where we need to be,” Sebelius admitted Wednesday. “It is a pretty aggressive schedule to get to the end of the punch list by the end of November.”
Senators lined up to talk to Sebelius about cancelled polices, enrollment delays and their own complaints about the management of the entire process.
U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Ut.) called the launch of healthcare.gov an “absolute debacle.”
Rockefeller told Sebelius some of the criticisms of the rollout are justified. “West Virginians have a right to know about your plans to correct past mistakes. And you should know I’m deeply frustrated with the problems many Americans are experiencing as they try to sign up for health care coverage,” said Rockefeller.
Overall, though, Rockefeller said he thinks the legislation he spent years crafting with other members of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee is good and, he said, the marketplace’s problems should not overshadow the “lifesaving benefits of the law.”
“My people in West Virginia don’t necessarily share that view right now because, I think, they have the problem that so many others have, that they simply don’t know what’s in the bill because of the absolutely maniacal, really admirable, but maniacal Republican attack machine,” said Rockefeller.
Already, he said, almost 60,000 West Virginians have successfully enrolled in the Medicaid expansion that was part of the health care reform law and, in the long term, he said he believes the law will help people who currently do not have health insurance or are one major health problem away from financial ruin.
“If there’s anything that can be worked out, it certainly would be the website. It’s a technology matter and that will happen. I’m not for delaying, unless they can’t fix it in time, in which case, then I think, maybe a penalty or something should be lifted,” said Rockefeller.
“But I’m incredibly proud of the bill.”