warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Obamacare Mandate Delayed As HealthCare.gov Faces Hearing

Jeremy Fuster |
October 24, 2013 | 12:27 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer


Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) declared the hearing on the HealthCare.gov glitches a "monkey court" (Screenshot/CSPAN)
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) declared the hearing on the HealthCare.gov glitches a "monkey court" (Screenshot/CSPAN)
As Congressional hearings over the bumpy rollout of the Affordable Healthcare Act continue, the Obama administration announced Wednesday night that Americans will have more time to buy health insurance. The Washington Post reports that the deadline to sign up for a healthcare plan has been pushed back by six weeks to March 31. Those who have not bought coverage by that date will be charged a penalty by the IRS. 

Administration officials told The Post that the deadline change was made to clarify that people only need to buy coverage before the deadline, not have coverage in effect. They insisted that the decision was not related to the glitches that have appeared on the HealthCare.gov since its launch on October 1, which include login errors and incorrect information being sent to insurance companies.

But the glitches are the main reason why a bipartisan call for this delay has been slowly building in Congress. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) began circulating a letter calling for Obama to push the deadline on Wednesday, and two fellow Democrats, Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, quickly followed with their own statements. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is now working on a bill that would delay IRS penalties until the end of 2014, according to Politico.

SEE ALSO | Healthcare Reform Hits Los Angeles Clinics

In the House of Representatives, Congressional hearings on the HealthCare.gov errors began on Thursday. CNN reports that officials from four of the 11 contractors involved in the website's creation testified today. The contractors said that the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, was responsible for overseeing the the construction of the website and neglected to perform "end-to-end testing" that would make sure that all the components created by the different contractors would work together. 

One contractor also pointed out that the government's decision to require users to create an account before searching the website for the best policy caused the website's registration system to crash. The contractor suggested that allowing users to browse for the best policy before registering would have spaced out the traffic to the registration system and would have allowed users to buy a policy without any major problems.

The hearing also included a heated moment between Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas and Democrat Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey. Barton accused the contractors of violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a law defining the rules of sharing personal health information. Barton cited a line of HealthCare.gov's source code that read, "You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system." 

Pallone countered by reminding Barton that the website registration does not require health information and therefore does not violate HIPAA. He went on to accuse Barton of "trying to scare everybody" and declaring that he would "not yield to this monkey court." The Atlantic Wire's Philip Bump notes that because the line Barton read was part of the website's source code, meaning that it was not a part of the page seen by users and therefore not legally enforceable. 

The hearing is being held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is one of three committees in the GOP-led House performing investigations into Obamacare.

Reach Executive Producer Jeremy Fuster here or follow him on Twitter



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.