Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are peeved that embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius may not testify at an Oct. 24 hearing into the botched rollout of the federal health insurance marketplace.
"HHS staff yesterday informed the majority staff that you would be unable to attend such a hearing," Republican committee members wrote Thursday in a letter to Sebelius. "To date, HHS has not committed to making other HHS officials available for the hearing."
Committee chairman Fred Upton, R-MI, said the apparent rebuff was unacceptable, especially in light of Sebelius' recent television appearances. "Secretary Sebelius had time for Jon Stewart (host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show') and we expect her to have time for Congress," Upton said in a press statement.
The federal marketplace, Healthcare.gov, was supposed to provide a one-stop site for users in 36 states to browse, compare and enroll in qualified health plans. But millions of users and numerous software problems overwhelmed the site shortly after the enrollment period for 2014 coverage began on Oct. 1.
Two weeks later, site navigation has improved but delays and malfunctions continue to dog the system, making it difficult for users to establish personal accounts and obtain federal subsidies to offset the cost of coverage.
No word yet from HHS on why Sebelius won't testify or whether other HHS officials will testify.