House Dem Caucus Chair: 'I absolutely believe somebody should be held accountable' for health glitches

McClatchy Washington BureauOctober 23, 2013 

Concerned congressional Democrats Wednesday met Wednesday and wanted answers about glitches in the new health care exchanges, while also insisting they still strongly supported the law.

And, some said, someone should be held accountable.

"We're concerned about the process. We're not happy if the process doesn't work well. We're not interested in hearing about glitches; we're interested in moving forward," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.

"But for us, while the process should not be a problem, our biggest concern is with the product. We want the product to be there for many Americans."

Asked if someone should be held accountable, he said yes, without naming names.

"I absolutely believe that somebody should be held accountable. We should find out as best possible where the glitches were and find out what we should do," Becerra said.

" I think we should find out what happened, why the websites weren't as prepared as we would all like them to have been, and then, like anything else, you're accountable for your report, making sure you get -- you meet your deadline to issue your article on time," he explained.

"We all have responsibilities, and so therefore we have to figure out, in terms of the website, how can we continue to improve it to make sure that everyone's getting the information they need, and based on that, hold everyone accountable for what they did or didn't do."

Later, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., addressed the same issue.

"There certainly is accountability internally in terms of what decisions were made when on all of this," she said. "But I think that our focus and energy should be used to fix it because the American people are depending on it and it's going to be a beautiful thing in their lives to have that freedom of -- I keep talking about life -- healthier life, liberty, the freedom to pursue of their happiness; not chained to a policy, but able to follow their passion."

They spoke after House of Representatives Democrats were briefed on the state of the exchanges by Obama administration officials. Republicans also want a briefing, and at first were not offered one. But Wednesday, the Speaker's office said that a briefing is now expected.

'At their meeting, Democratic leaders tried to take the spotlight away from the glitches. "This is... not just about a website," said Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y.

After the caucus, Becerra said officials were told they'd be watched closely.

"We have to make sure that the administration -- the Department of Health and Human Services -- has the resources it need to make sure that the people and the infrastructure is there continuing -- on a continuing basis to have millions of people actually transition over to getting quality affordable health care. So we'll see what happens with that," he said.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nevada, did see one reason for optimism.

"I would say that there is a silver lining to the fact that there is a problem with the website is that so many people went to it. They want this insurance. They want to get information. They want to sign up for it," she said.

"They obviously need the service, so that belies all the argument that you hear on the other side that people think this is a terrible way to go."

Becerra tried to explain some details of the briefing.

"Because it's such detailed information and because it has to go through various agencies -- you're talking about Homeland Security, IRS, SBA, HHS, so many of the different departments in the government -- that you're now having to tap a lot of different sites," he said.

"And because so many people were doing the inquiry, it did really bottleneck the process."


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