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Sebelius: 'Our department will serve as a nationwide health insurance reform Help Desk'

M2X00070_9.JPG"We have a great law," Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said yesterday. "Now, we have to carry it out." To that end, she promised that "our department will serve as a nationwide health insurance reform Help Desk. If you have questions, we’ll have answers." And how do you get those answers? Well, the speech was a bit vague on that point. There was no number to call the help desk. But there was a Web site:

Every American should bookmark our website You can go there to read more fact sheets, get your questions answered, and watch weekly web chats where we take questions live from around the country. We’ll also be working with lots of stakeholder groups to broadcast information about the bill even more widely.

But the Web site is still totally insufficient to the task. For instance: Here's the 'questions and answers' section of the site. That's ... not good enough. Hopefully, Sebelius's promise will force it to get better, and quick. Anyway, you can read Sebelius's full speech here.

Photo credit: By Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

By Ezra Klein  |  April 7, 2010; 12:03 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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"But the Web site is still totally insufficient to the task."

It will always be totally insufficient, for two reasons. First, this is the federal government you're writing about. Federal websites almost always suck. Second, this is health care you're writing about. It is an extremely complex topic, with regional variations, family variations, age variations, etc., etc., etc.

And the fact that Madam Secretary pretends that her website will be anything other than useless pap speaks volumes.

Posted by: ostap666 | April 7, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

its still early but glad Ezra's holding Sebelius' feet to the fire so to speak. There's plenty of time to get the help line up and running. Hopefully they'll be more efficient than the site. You may want to go there for the over-65 version.

Yes its like most government websites, enormous and difficult to find anything of use. And for those without internet access I'm sure they'll be an 800 number eventually but I hope people like Ezra keep holding these stakeholders to their promises.

Also when I clicked to the link it states info on the credit assuming that people are eligible.

I figured out why the amount spent on the credit (ie lost tax revenue) is estimated to be so low. Its because its not meant to cover much (especially if you live in the Northeast or other "expensive" places.

Its staggered to pay that amount more towards smaller employers (under 10) and towards those employers whose employees make less total salary. So not every employer receives the credit if they're under 50 employees. that's not fully explained (not the first or the last time that'll happen) and in the Northeast where $50,000 is practically minimum wage employers will see little effect from this at all yet they'll keep spinning it like everyone will get this credit.

Nice little shell game.

Posted by: visionbrkr | April 7, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Are you kidding me?? Sebelius lives in a whole other world -- not like ours.
Sebelius, when you and all the other
government workers are on "OBAMACARE"...
THEN you can tell us how simple OBAMACARE
will be.
Until then-- don't make these phony claims. Because we're talking about the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE.
And you probably still don't know yourself,
what's actually in this monstrosity of a bill.

Posted by: ohioan | April 7, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

here's another good site for info on the credit.,,id=220848,00.html?portlet=7

Posted by: visionbrkr | April 7, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Separate from the quality of the content on the site...I imagine a fair number of people who are going to be affected by the health-reform law - or at least will think they'll be affected - probably don't have access to the Internet or aren't the most savvy/confident with computers.

Hopefully there will be alternative ways for people in rural areas, lower-income families without computer access, immigrants/refugees, the elderly, and others to get this information. Because if there aren't, they will certainly get misinformation.

Posted by: fswoboda | April 7, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Really, "" We need a better name for the overall *statute* than this. Or, don't name the thing -- just re-do the HHS Web site. Discussing this as if it's still a bill does proponents no favors.

Posted by: Chris_ | April 7, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Our department will serve as a nationwide health insurance reform Help Desk'

What a scary Thought!!! Based on her Ineptness on Managing H1D1 we are in for a real Major DISASTER worse than what HAITI experienced!!!!

Posted by: redhawk2 | April 7, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

BTW is Sec Sebelius Really from a Strange Planet??? Can she really belive what she says??? Please unplug her teleprompter after " hello I am..."

Posted by: redhawk2 | April 7, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

the one website that is honestly very good is the Medicare Part D one. (btw has nothing to do with which political party sponsored it).

On that site you can just go on view clear explanations of coverage and purchase coverage from at least 50 companies directly on their site and get all the details you need including having them suggest what plans will cost you less based upon the prescriptions you currently take.

Posted by: visionbrkr | April 7, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad you called them on the lousy website. I'm going on there to complain ASAP. Since before the HC debate began, I've been emailing the White House, begging them to put together a powerpoint: a little background about health care delivery, the basics of insurance, maybe a slide or two to introduce the context of public health, just something to provide a common frame of reference in preparation for a national discussion on something complex and too big to fit on a cell phone screen. God forbid the media should rise to the occasion in this regard.
Obama's biggest mistake was to assume that people knew enough about health care to proceed in a balmy tide of support for his policies. Nobody knows much about healthcare until they get sick. Medicine itself is largely based on how to approach what is unknown due to being inside the body somewhere(differential diagnosis, rule out this, rule out that).
People got mad cause they didn't understand. They think they know about healthcare--they think it's market-driven. They think everything is market-driven. It is not well understood that many enter the health care delivery system not by way of choosing among competing resources, but by way of being peeled out of a car wreck, unconscious, or under conditions in which the field of choice is narrowed to a pinpoint by pain, fear of death of self or loved one, or immobility. Obama is so good at explaining things, it killed me how he just sat there and let the Republicans take the Ignorance Football and run down the field. Now Healthcare Reform has been passed and Sebelius has the Ignorance Football. The "weekly webchats with live questions from around the country" should greatly inform her as to what people do and don't know and I expect the website will improve.

Posted by: MBovary | April 7, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

She was a disaster at a town hall meeting when asked by someone if she had read the bill. She haughtily replied, "you read it." She is the perfect face for the "affordable" healthcare act, with her hauteur, total lack of concern for the little guy, and general incompetence. A more suitable secretary of HHS could not have been found.

Posted by: truck1 | April 7, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

When you think of how much a humane seeming, intelligent person could help with the turmoil and apprehension caused by the passage of this legislation, it remains a mystery why the administration keeps this icy, disdainful woman at the helm of HHS.

Posted by: truck1 | April 8, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

In November Sebelius and her ill informed ilk will see just how much disdain there is for a bill that will in all probability not be funded.
Do we really want this regime running health care? I think not!
But the Web site is still totally insufficient to the task.

Posted by: jimjackson | April 8, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

"Hopefully, Sebelius's promise will force it to get better, and quick."

What is it exactly about the Federal government that gives you this hope? Oh wait, hope and change...I almost forgot.

I can't wait until you are blogging from the Medicaid clinic. Don't worry, you will have lots of free time in the waiting room.

Posted by: kingstu01 | April 8, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

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