Health care

House committee threatens subpoena over ObamaCare enrollment numbers

Notes from Obama administration meeting on that indicated only six people signed up on day one may have been a harbinger of disasters to come


The Republican-led House Ways and Means Committee may subpoena the Obama administration in an effort to obtain enrollment numbers for the new health care exchanges amid reports only six people signed up for ObamaCare on its first day.

Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., the committee's chairman, wrote to Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner, the senior Obama administration official closest to the problem-plagued rollout of the health law, requesting that enrollment figures be released immediately. 

"We are facing a crisis," Camp wrote. "The failed launch of the exchanges combined with the millions of cancellation notices is putting Americans health care coverage at risk. By all media accounts, enrollment in the exchanges is thus far significantly behind the administration's projections." 

Camp cited media reports indicating the administration has direct access to daily enrollment figures. Raising questions about the administration's transparency on the rollout, Tavenner declined to provide the committee with signup numbers at a hearing this week.

The Obama administration has thus far not released any official numbers on ObamaCare enrollment, saying the first numbers would be released in mid-November after the Department of Health and Human Services collects data from a variety of different sources. 

"The committee is not prepared to wait until 'around mid-November' for the administration's scrubbed and spun numbers," Camp wrote. "Enrollment data exists today that will help this committee begin to address the implications of the failed launch."

Camp asked Tavenner to provide the committee with daily enrollment figures, warning that refusing to comply with the request "will be met with subpoenas to compel their production."

On Thursday, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., issued a subpoena requiring HHS to turn over documents “related to technical problems with, the testing that went into the website and the number of people who have enrolled and attempted to enroll in federal exchanges through” by Nov. 13.

Documents released Thursday by the Issa's committee indicated only six people managed to enroll on the first day, when about 3 million tried to access the website. An administration official told Fox News the documents “appear to be notes,” and do not include official enrollment statistics.

White House spokesman Jay Carney sought to lower expectations Friday, saying the figures will show the first month was slow. That was expected, he said, but the actual numbers will be even lower because of widespread problems with the website. Prior to the troubled launch, administration projections called for nearly 500,000 signups in October.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius met with local ObamaCare enrollment partners before in Memphis on Friday before addressing an audience of more than 100 people at an area library who wanted to sign up. 

Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd, Sebelius said she is sorry that people who have waited a long time for the health insurance website are frustrated with it. 

A question from reporters afterward dealt with a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll that says the number of people who say they understand how the law affects their own family is up 8 points to 55 percent. However, the percentage of people who have a generally unfavorable opinion of the law remained virtually unchanged at 44 percent, indicating that people don't seem to like the law any better, even as they learn more about it.

"There is no question there is still an extraordinary amount of misinformation," she said. "If 55 percent of the people understand a little more about how it affects them and their families, that means that 45 percent of the people still don't have any idea, and may have believed that there is anything from death panels for Medicare constituents or something will happen to their health benefits or any number of things that continue to be said over and over again."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.