At issue is a glitch in the application process that is meant to send information consumers submit online to insurance companies during the enrollment process. Insurance companies have been receiving inadequate or confusing information, which Sebelius said is one of the "priority fixes" being made.
"According to the insurance companies who are eager to have customers, they are not getting reliable data all the way through the system," Sebelius said. She said she intends to release "confirmed data" on a monthly basis beginning in November. "The system isn't functioning, so we are not getting that reliable data," she said.
Critics suspected the administration was withholding information about enrollment because it was failing to meet the administration's benchmarks. If signups are significantly below expectations – which Sebelius said at this point they appeared to be – it could further complicate the intent of the law, particularly if younger, healthier Americans do not enroll to balance the risk of consumers with greater health needs.
Technical problems that have marred the rollout of the most crucial piece of the implementation of President Obama's health law were a recurring theme of the House hearing Wednesday, with members at various points referring to a screen that showed in real time how HealthCare.gov continued to have operational problems.
Sebelius apologized for what she acknowledged was a "miserably frustrating experience" for many Americans seeking new coverage, and repeatedly said she – and not President Obama -- should be held accountable for the "debacle."
"I'm responsible," she said.
Still, Sebelius maintained that the law on the whole, "by any fair measure," was working. She also argued that despite major issues the website "has never crashed."
"It is functional, but at a very slow speed and very low reliability, and has continued to function," she said.
"Don't you think you had the obligation to tell the American people that we're going to put you in this system, but beware, your information is likely to be vulnerable?" Rogers asked Sebelius.
She answered that regular monitoring and testing continues, and security protocols continued to be upgraded.
"You're literally in charge of this law. Should you be any different than all of the other Americans out there losing their health insurance?" he asked.
Sebelius, who initially resisted answering Long's questions about enrolling in the exchange because she said she was not eligible to do so, ultimately said she "would gladly join the exchange if I didn't have affordable coverage in my workplace."
Democratic members of the committee stepped in at times to rebut Republicans’ lines of questioning. Rep.
“You love what's wrong with the website, and you detest what's working in the Affordable Care Act. And I think that that is on full display here,” Rep.
Sebelius appeared to emerge from the more than 3-1/2-hour hearing unscathed, with even a top Republican critic of the Affordable Care Act resisting to join calls for her to step down.
“This doesn’t end with her. This is President Obama’s signature law,” Rep.