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HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Talks Obamacare

In a phone conversation on Thursday afternoon, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius discussed some of the current issues surrounding the Affordable Care Act.

Sebelius has faced criticism over the health exchange rollout, canceled insurance policies and abortion coverage. Some of her strongest critics hail from Kansas, the state where Sebelius twice served as governor. 

Insurance shoppers will need to register on the marketplaces by Monday, Dec. 23 to get coverage starting on Jan. 1, 2014. Open enrollment will continue until March 31.

Interview highlights:

The Affordable Care Act remains riddled with “technical issues," like unclear language and definitions. One of these, called the “family glitch,” allows individuals, but not their families to receive subsidies if their employer does not offer affordable insurance. Observers say fixes are needed.

“Right now, that conversation is pretty difficult within the halls of Congress because there seem to be people who are just interested in either repealing the law, but not really fixing the law,” said Sebelius.

Kansas Senator Pat Roberts and 14 other Senators recently introduced a bill that would require the exchanges to fully disclose which participating insurance plans offer abortion coverage. Sebelius said this is already part of the law.

“There’s a regulation that requires any qualified health plan sold on the marketplace to have in their statement of benefits whether or not they cover abortion services," said Sebelius. "In fact, it’s the only service that’s specifically called out, that has to be identified.”

Roberts and many other Senators have called for Sebelius’s resignation.

“I’m here to do the job I came to do, which is to continue to work on implementation of an historic law,” she said.

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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