Where to begin? Appearing today before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the subject of her agency’s botched health-care website, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said “I don’t know” when asked if she could promise transparency on the site regarding coverage of elective abortions. The simple question advanced by Representative John Shimkus (R., Ill.) was whether or not a constituent of his who was opposed to such coverage would be able in the future to find that information readily at Healthcare.gov.
Yeas and nays are not currently in style for the Obama administration. Obviously irritated when Shimkus persisted and altered his question, Sebelius told the committee that she thought her agency could certainly provide legislators with a list of the exchange plans and whether or not they cover elective abortion.
This is progress of a sort. But Sebelius did not say when Congress might obtain such a list, she did not commit to making that list available to visitors to the exchange website, and she certainly made no commitment that whatever level of transparency HHS would offer would actually be complete — that is, clear, complete, and accessible prior to the applicant’s entrusting government with personal data and enrolling in a particular plan. More than anything else, her indifferent-seeming reply only confirmed how dismissive some figures in government are of concerns that are not only widespread but specifically acknowledged in the underlying law.
How difficult would it have been for Sebelius to say, “Congressman, we are aware of this concern and we know this topic matters greatly to millions of Americans on both sides of this issue. The Affordable Care Act provides for at least one of the multi-state plans to exclude elective abortion coverage and we accept our responsbility to see to it that every applicant for exchange insurance has ready access to this information before they select and enroll in coverage. That is what we, as the most transparent administration in American history, are obliged to do and we will do it.”
With weeks to prepare for today’s hearing, Sebelius or one or her aides could have composed such a reply in one minute. But then the Americans implicated by her answer would have to have been worth a minute of her time. And, as she has told us, she does not work for many of them anyway.
— Charles A. “Chuck” Donovan is the president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute.