Sebelius apologizes for failings

The Health and Human Services secretary spoke before the House Energy and Commerce Committee

Published October 30, 2013 4:30PM (EDT)

According to USA Today, Kathleen Sebelius, the former governor of Kansas and current head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, apologized for's many failings on Wednesday during her testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"You deserve better," Sebelius said, directing her comments to the American people. "I apologize. I'm accountable to you for fixing these problems."

In addition to her apology, Sebelius also disclosed the amount of money spent thus far on the website: $118 million on the site itself, and another $56 million on "IT support."

In one tense exchange with Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Sebelius insisted that she, and not the president, was responsible for the website's failures. "Hold me accountable for the debacle," Sebelius said. "I'm responsible."

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Sebelius' testimony comes the day after Marilyn Tavenner, the director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Obama administration official closest to the website's management, apologized for the botched rollout before a different House panel.

In her opening remarks, Sebelius also sought to place some of the blame on government contractors building the website who "have not met expectations." She told the committee that there was not adequate "end-to-end testing" of the website, saying there was about two weeks of testing. has been shaky since its debut on Oct. 1, when open enrollment began under the Affordable Care Act. The law, which passed with no Republican support, was signed by President Obama with great fanfare in 2010 as a key to overhauling the nation's complex health care system and providing insurance to millions of people who are currently without such coverage.


Jeffrey Zients, a former White House budget deputy, said the site will be fixed by Nov. 30. Sebelius' prepared testimony said HHS has updated the website's technology with new code and help from experts inside and outside of government.

Sebelius said Wednesday that she feels good about the Nov. 30 date, noting that the department's assessment is that it will take that long for to be "an optimally functional" website.

"I have confidence ... but I know it isn't fair to the American people to take my word for it," she said. "I have to fix this."


By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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