Frank Pallone is mad as hell, and he's not going to take it anymore!
The Democratic congressman from New Jersey went off on a fellow committee member during today's Energy and Commerce hearing about healthcare.gov's user woes. Testifying at the hearing are three contractors who worked with the government on the site, all of which insisted their companies were not to blame for the site's problems.
For once, Republican committee members were quick to blame the private contractors over government bureaucrats, and Cheryl Campbell, the senior vice president at CGI Federal, got the brunt of their criticism. In Campbell's opening testimony, she pointed out the site is composed of "six complex systems" involving 55 contractors, five federal agencies, and 170 insurance carriers in 36 states. That hardly deterred Obamacare opponents from using her as the poster child for healthcare.gov's glitches. With a look of what can only be described as pure glee, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, pointed out a warning on healthcare.gov saying the information users enter is less private than typical medical forms.
He went on to press Campbell, trying to get her to say the website violates the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. "You know it’s not HIPAA-compliant,” he told her. “Admit it! You’re under oath!" Campbell demurred, and Pallone swooped in to save the day:
Pallone: I started out in my openting statements saying there was no legitimacy to this hearing, and the last line of questioning certainly confirms that. HIPAA only applies when there's health information being provided. That's not in play here today—no health information is required in the application process, and why is that? Because pre-existing conditions don't matter! So once again, here we have my Republican colleagues trying to scare everybody—
Barton: Will the gentleman yield?
Pallone: No, I will not yield to this monkey court or whatever this thing is.
Barton: This is not a monkey court.
Pallone: Do whatever you want. I'm not yielding. I am trying to tell you—
Barton: Protecting American citizens is a legitimate concern of this committee.
Pallone: —the pre-existing conditions don't matter. HIPAA doesn't apply. There's no health information in the process. You're asked about your address, your date of birth, you're not asked health information. So why are we going down this path? Because you are trying to scare people so they don't apply!
While otherwise useless so far, this hearing gives us a real-time peek into how the two parties are trying to Shape the Narrative of healthcare.gov's woes. On the right: It's not only dysfunctional, it violates privacy! On the left: Republicans don't want the law to work, and they're trying to scare you away from getting health care! They're both concern trolling on behalf of their fine constituents.
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