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Paulsen: Will health-care website be ready by Nov. 30?

WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers had a lot of targets to pick from when Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner testified on the Affordable Care Act rollout at the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday.

Minnesota Rep. Erik Paulsen picked the technical problems plaguing the centerpiece of the law, the federal health care exchange website healthcare.gov.

The website was horribly glitchy when it was launched on Oct. 1, so much so that President Obama appointed a team to root out the problems and fix them. The administration now says the site should be fully operational by Nov. 30. Paulsen wanted Tavenner to say how officials picked that new deadline and what will be done to ensure it’s met.

“We actually pulled in a team of external experts to take a look at the system, look at the problems, say, 'Is it fixable and how long does it take?' ” she said. “So that’s the process. You’ll see continuous improvement week over week.”

“How do you know the schedule is going to be kept on Nov. 30, and what happens if you miss that date?" Paulsen asked.

“The system is working, it’s just not working as smoothly or as consistently as we want,” Tavenner said. “The system is built, the hub is working, we were able to correct the 'create account issue,' which was a big sticking point in the beginning. Now we’re doing the rest of the fixes and improving system performance.”

Minnesota set up its own health care exchange, Mnsure, which had early technical problems as well, but has since allowed about 3,800 to begin enrolling in coverage, as of Oct. 16. Those numbers have likely increased and updated figures will be available Nov. 6, MNsure says.

Lawmakers peppered Tavenner with questions about everything from the website glitches to a Monday report that millions of individuals could lose their private health care coverage next year under the ACA.

Her appearance at Ways and Means was a bit of an appetizer for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s Capitol Hill testimony on Wednesday. A growing group of Republicans have called for Sebelius to resign over the insurance overhaul problems.

Devin Henry can be reached at dhenry@minnpost.com. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry

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