Merkley voices frustration over health care glitches

After White House meeting, urges deadline delays

POSTED: 12:12 PM PST December 24, 2013    UPDATED: 11:51 AM PST November 7, 2013 
Sen. Jeff Merkley

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley expressed frustration Wednesday with "unacceptable" delays in the rollout of health care exchanges, after he and other Senate Democrats met with President Obama and Vice President Biden at the White House to discuss the Affordable Care Act's progress and challenges.

During the meeting with over a dozen Senate Democrats, the president discussed ongoing efforts to fix and improve the experience of Americans looking to enroll in coverage.

Obama emphasized that he shared the senators' commitment to ensuring that Americans who want to enroll in health insurance through the Marketplaces are able to do so in time for insurance coverage to start as early as January 1st, and throughout the open enrollment period which goes through March 31.

He also discussed ongoing efforts to ramp up communication and education outreach to consumers who have received or might receive letters about how their individual market plans might be affected.

Obama also reiterated that the administration is working to protect the privacy and security of consumers and to ensure that online marketplace applications are protected by stringent security standards, with ongoing testing to help safeguard personal information.

The president also asked the senators for input on how implementation of the law is impacting their constituents, and expressed appreciation for their ongoing help to ensure the law works best for families and businesses and all Americans can take advantage of the benefits of the law.

After the meeting, Merkley issued a statement, saying, "I am very frustrated with the rollout of the exchanges. The dysfunction and delays are unacceptable."

"After meeting with the president today, I remain deeply convinced that this is a 'show-me' moment," he said. "This will not be resolved until Americans can, day after day, sign on to the health marketplace, review their options, and complete their applications.

"People should have the full measure of time envisioned in the law to sort through their health care choices and sign up. For each day of delay, the window for applications should be extended by a day," Merkley said.

"Moreover, citizens who cannot sign up until after January 1st due to the dysfunction of state or national online health markets should have the ability to establish coverage retroactively to January 1st.  No one should experience a gap in coverage through no fault of their own."

White House press secretary Jay Carney rejected the idea of extending the March 31 deadline for Americans to get insurance or face a fine. He said the administration believes there is time to make the enrollment process work.

Later, Merkley, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, met with Federal Reserve Chair nominee Janet Yellen, and later said they "had a productive discussion about the Federal Reserve’s role in supporting economic growth and in regulating the financial industry.

"Her qualifications and priorities for the Federal Reserve are right for the job," Merkley said. "During a time when so many families are still struggling to make ends meet, we need a leader at the Fed who combines a mastery of the details with a hard-headed focus on helping middle class families and bringing down unemployment. That is exactly what Janet Yellen brings to the job, and I am pleased to support her candidacy.”