Sebelius claims website to improve

By Bryan Richardson

U.S. health secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday that the battered federal health insurance website will be improved.

Sebelius made the claim during a conference call Tuesday with state and local officials across the country.

She said everything is on track for a “significantly different user experience” on by the end of November.

Many people have criticized the website set up for Affordable Care Act coverage enrollment since its Oct. 1 launch – including members of the Kansas congressional delegation.

U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., has used his website to point out errors he found with the site.

Kansas didn’t set up an insurance exchange, so the federal website is the only option for residents to enroll online. The online application is currently unavailable from approximately midnight to 4 a.m. daily.

Sebelius said there isn’t a “magic turn on the ‘on switch,’ ” that the website has already improved, and will continue to do so.

“I would urge you and your folks on the ground to not hesitate to recommend that people go to and get signed up,” the former Kansas governor said.

The enrollment deadline to receive coverage starting Jan. 1 has been pushed back to Dec. 23. The open enrollment period ends March 31.

Sebelius also spoke about Medicaid expansion.

The Affordable Care Act includes a provision that allows states to expand Medicaid eligibility to people below 138 percent of the federal poverty line.

The federal government would pay 100 percent of the costs for newly eligible people from 2014 to 2016.

Funding would decrease after that until the federal government covers 90 percent in 2020, which would be the funding level in subsequent years.

Kansas legislators didn’t take action on expanding Medicaid during the 2013 session.

Sebelius said the Medicaid expansion debate is “a moral issue” that would leave people in the lowest income bracket without health coverage if expansion doesn’t occur.

She said the administration would continue its ongoing effort to get the rest of the states on board.

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