Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: Health care law implementation 'is absolutely on schedule'
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius joined Amy Goldstein of The Washington Post and Jeffrey Young of Bloomberg News in a pre-taped interview that aired Sunday on C-SPAN.
"Implementation [of the health care law] is absolutely on schedule," Sebelius said, calling the effort "a daunting task."
Asked about the upcoming health-care repeal vote, Sebelius said, "I think it gives us...an opportunity." She went on to cite a variety of benefits under the bill, including small business tax credits, the ability for parents to keep their children on their family health care plans longer, and the elimination of health-care cost caps.
Challenged on her positive outlook, Sebelius acknowledged that the vote holds risks for the law. "I think there always is a cautionary note with a new piece of legislation," she said, citing the repeal efforts following the passage of social security. She then went on to cite the CBO's estimate that the repeal vote would add billions to the federal deficit. Republicans have rejected the report, with House Speaker John Boehner (R) saying in early January that the CBO was "entitled to their opinion."
"We know there are things that need to be changed," said Sebelius, referring to the reporting requirements for small businesses. "Can this bill be improved? You bet."
"This is a platform for a new health care system," she said," and I think, as we go forward, we look forward to...discussing with Congress ways it could be improved."
"We haven't had enough experience with some of the features to know whether or not the legal structure is really sound," said Sebelius of the 9-month-old law.
"I'm afraid that there are folks that are in the Congress right now who want to see the bill fail," said Sebelius, going on to say that those lawmakers would stymie efforts to improve the bill if they failed to repeal it.
"I hope they're really interested in improvements and not just in having this very important law fail," said Sebelius, referring to the law's requirement that all Americans acquire health care coverage as the "individual responsibility." The requirement is often referred to as the individual mandate.
Asked whether she would attend Congressional hearings if subpoenaed or invited, Sebelius said "of course I will be responsive" to requests to appear. "I'm hopeful that what will happen is a good dialog and...information sharing," said Sebelius, going on to say that new members of Congress had a "learning curve" they would need to overcome in terms of getting to know the programs under the purview of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Asked if the Department was making any contingency plans in case the law was struck down, Sebelius did not detail any, emphasizing that the Department was working to implement the law. "We're going to continue to implement the law as long as it's the law, and I hope that it's for centuries to come."
| January 16, 2011; 10:19 AM ET
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