Every time Kathleen Sebelius testifies before Congress, President Obama’s secretary of health and human services reminds us why she is unfit for her Cabinet post: She is a serial dissembler.
The latest example is her appearance this week before the House Ways and Means Committee.
Rep. Jim Renacci, an Ohio Republican, reminded her of the benchmark she set in September to adjudge the success of the Obamacare insurance exchanges. “Success,” she said, “looks like at least 7 million people having signed up by the end of March 2014.”
Rep. Renacci noted that open enrollment ends two weeks from now and that sign-ups are well short of 7 million. So, the lawmaker asked Ms. Sebelius, “What do you now call success?”
The HHS secretary denied she said 7 million sign-ups was the benchmark for Obamacare success. She maintained that what she really said was, “Success looks like millions of people with affordable health coverage.” Obamacare will meet that supposed goal “by the end of March in the private marketplace,” she said. “So, we will have, I think, a successful program.”
When a public official can get away with disavowing past statements, as Ms. Sebelius did this week, when that official can get away with revising established benchmarks, as she also did, she achieves the equivalent of turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse.
That’s been the HHS secretary’s pattern.
Indeed, following Obamacare’s disastrous rollout in October, she told an audience in Austin, Texas, that, had it been left up to her, the glitchy healthcare.gov website would have been subjected to “a lot more testing.” Alas, she said, “We did not have the luxury of that, and the law said the go-time was Oct. 1.”
But that’s not what the law said, as our friends at Townhall.com reported in October. The Affordable Care Act actually said the enrollment period would be “as determined by the secretary.” So Ms. Sebelius set the Oct. 1 launch date.
Then there was her response to a question posed to her during what she thought would be a friendly interview with Jon Stewart, host of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central.
Mr. Stewart thought it unfair that Ms. Sebelius gave businesses a one-year delay before Obamacare took effect for them, while not giving individuals the same delay. “Would you say that’s a legitimate criticism?” he asked.
But “they can” get a delay, said the HHS secretary, referring to individuals. “They pay a fine at the end of the year, but they don’t have to. They can say, ‘I don’t want to do it.’”
Mr. Stewart was unsatisfied with Ms. Sebelius’ response. “Maybe she’s just lying to me,” he told his viewing audience during his end-of-show monologue.
And that’s how we feel whenever we read the latest Obamacare report from HHS, or listen to the latest testimony from the HHS secretary on Capitol Hill. We don’t know whether the numbers, the declarations are trustworthy.
The American people deserve the unvarnished truth about the president’s health care reform. That’s why Congress should task the Congressional Budget Office or some independent body to prepare a comprehensive assessment of where Obamacare stands at the end of the enrollment period.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
This article was written by the editorial board of the Orange County Register.