Tag archives: Kathleen Sebelius

Sebelius and Transparency at the Energy and Commerce Committee Hearing

by Bethany Brock

November 1, 2013

On Wedneday morning, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the roll-out debacle of Obamacare. Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) called the members of the Committee to order and stated that the purpose of the hearing was to “achieve fairness for the American people, and transparency” in the flawed launch of HealthCare.gov.”

Americans were assured that their experience would be equivalent to other online experiences such as booking a flight or ordering pizza,” Upton said as he looked straight at Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “Today’s hearing is about fairness for the American people who are losing their coverage or seeing their premium skyrocket as high as 400 percent,” Upton said.

Once Sebelius was sworn in and seated before the Committee, the room stilled, reporters positioned cameras and prepared notepads, and all waited with anticipation.

In the summary of her written statement, Sebelius apologized for the flawed launch of HealthCare.gov. She agreed that the flawed launch was a “miserably frustrating experience,” and affirmed the American people that they deserved better. In addition to reporters, interns, and Hill staffers attending the hearing, the members of the gallery ranged from veterans wearing Vietnam or Korea ball caps to tourists who came to the hearing in jeans and tennis shoes.

Questions from members of the Energy and Commerce Committee ranged in topics from the security of Americans’ personal information, the cost of the creation and the maintenance of the website, the lack of freedom in choosing health care options, to how the HHS plans to deal with the November 30 deadline for nationwide coverage.

When Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) asked a question about the cost of the website, she requested that it be pulled up live. As everyone looked towards the screen, HealthCare.gov appeared with a page saying that the system was down.  Blackburn asked for a ballpark price for this disabled website; and Sebelius reported that this non-functioning website cost $118 million and has cost an additional $56 million to fix so far. This report was met with a noticeable rise in tension and awkward glances around to gauge others’ reactions.

Overall, the atmosphere of the room was inquisitive and people seemed genuinely interested to get answers on the Obamacare .

One question, however, that didn’t receive a clear answer was Rep. John Shimkus’s (R-Ill) transparency question. Shimkus asked if the American people would be able to see which healthcare plans in the federal exchange offer abortion coverage, and if Sebelius would provide committee members a list of these plans.  Sebelius said she “thought” she could provide a list and when pressed further said, “Sir, I can’t tell you what I don’t firmly know right now.” As the time expired, and the floor was given to another congress member for questioning, this question was left with an unsatisfied silence.

Secretary Sebelius on Religious Freedom Protections

by Family Research Council

April 26, 2012

This morning in a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Workforce Committee, HHS Secretary Sebelius was questioned by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on the topic of religious liberty. Specifically, Rep. Gowdy questioned Secretary Sebelius’ statement in her testimony indicating the careful consideration she undertook to “balance” religious liberty protections with preventive services in making the decision about the contraceptive mandate (which includes drugs that can cause abortions).

Rep. Gowdy asked the Secretary about the specifics of her “balance”. In doing so he explained three tests for legal balance, depending on the content and issues being weighed. He explained that because religious liberty is a fundamental right any decision that might violate it would require the strictest scrutiny.

Under oath, the nation’s HHS head stated that in making this decision and taking into consideration religious liberty issues, she relied on the expertise of HHS General Counsel. When questioned further about the counsel she received, the Secretary reported that guidance was provided entirely in discussion, and no legal memo was written on the topic. When asked further about her knowledge of the most significant cases related to relgious liberty that have been decided by the Supreme Court, the Secretary responded that she was unaware/unfamiliar with these cases. It is a telling moment.

The full video is a must-see and just over five minutes:

Secretary Sebelius to NARAL: Contraceptive Mandate a Victory

by Family Research Council

October 6, 2011

According to the Associated Press, Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius spoke at a National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) Pro-Choice America luncheon in Chicago yesterday. During her remarks, she received much applause when she said that “Republicans want to roll back women’s health gains 50 years.”

Interestingly, the AP reports that the Secretary received an even louder round of applause from the gathered abortion proponents when she discussed the recent interim final rule on women’s preventive service, the “contraceptive mandate.” The mandate is the first roll-out of the health care law passed in March, 2010, and forces employers to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives in health plans with no co-pay. However, some drugs and devices that are labeled as contraceptives can cause an abortion to a developing baby. For more information see FRC’s comments here and q and a here.

In her words, “women have suffered discrimination by insurance companies that have considered… birth control a lifestyle choice.” She did not, however, comment on the tens of thousands of negative comments filed last week asking for the government to rescind this unprecedented violation of religious freedom from government coercion.

President Obama was also bragging and joking about the contraceptive mandate this week during a Democratic fundraiser in St. Louis. He, too, was silent on the influx of negative comments related to this mandate. It is sad to see an Administration so proudly hailing a mandate that will violate the consciences of millions of Americans, as well as rob countless developing babies of their inherent right to life.

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