Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

Website's problems cast glare on Sebelius

WASHINGTON — The first, and perhaps most painful, call for Kathleen Sebelius to resign as President Barack Obama's health secretary came earlier this month from an old family friend: Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who once boasted of a "special relationship" with Sebelius, forged when he worked for her father-in-law.

Now Sebelius, the former Kansas governor and onetime insurance commissioner who is the public face of Obama's health care overhaul, is facing a barrage of criticism over the botched rollout of its online insurance exchange. For Republicans, still reeling from their failed "defund Obamacare" strategy, she has proved a convenient target.

Republicans insist the buck stops with the secretary. Sebelius runs the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency responsible for carrying out the far-reaching Affordable Care Act, but there are questions about how deeply she was involved in the development of the problem-plagued HealthCare.gov website.

The White House kept close tabs on the effort, with particular attention to the website's design, but managing the details of the software development was left to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which Sebelius oversees.

She testified on Capitol Hill this spring that the exchanges were "on track" to open Oct. 1, but those close to her say she has been far more immersed in developing policy related to the health care law than in its technical aspects.

House Republicans, including leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which planned a hearing Thursday to examine issues related to the technical failures of the website, have demanded that she testify.

Sebelius' decision to leave Washington this week — she will attend a gala at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston tonight, then travel to promote the health care law in Phoenix; Austin, Texas; and San Antonio — caused an uproar among Republicans who said she had not explained why the website failed and how the government plans to fix it. (She will appear next week.)

"We've got lots of questions," said Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., chairman of the panel's health subcommittee. "Why would she mislead us so shortly before the rollout, when they were obviously not prepared and are still not prepared, and it's going to take a long time to fix the problem? We want to know how long she thinks it is going to take."

On Tuesday, Sebelius tried to provide some answers, at least in writing. In a blog post on her agency's website, she provided details of the "technology surge" promised by the White House to correct the site's deficiencies, and she named Jeffrey Zients, a management consultant and administration veteran with a history of resolving government technology issues, as leader of the effort. She said the administration also was bringing in "veterans from top Silicon Valley companies" and other experts to consult on the technology overhaul.

Although the widespread failure of the online insurance exchange has led many critics to call for her resignation, Sebelius' allies said she had no intention of stepping down.

"She has the president's confidence," White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said Tuesday. "And she knows that."

The secretary, who declined to be interviewed, has kept a low television profile, prompting questions about whether the White House was keeping her under wraps. She has taken questions at community events.

McDonough praised her as "tireless" in that effort. While he described the health secretary as the law's "chief implementer, with support from us," he would not discuss her work with respect to the website, saying she should answer those questions.

Comments
Carlos Gomez says he was guilty of only one thing in Sunday’s epic walkoff homer celebration

Carlos Gomez says he was guilty of only one thing in Sunday’s epic walkoff homer celebration

BALTIMORE – Carlos Gomez is perfectly willing to explain the specific elements that went into his epic celebration tour around the bases following Sunday's walkoff home run.The bat flip and raised arms were his initial reaction to how well he h...
Updated: 3 hours ago

High school scoreboard for April 24

Tuesday’s scoreboardBaseballCalvary Chr. 8, Jesuit 1Boys TennisClass 3A, District 9-10 Regional Semifinal: Osceola 4, King 1Girls TennisClass 3A, District 9-10 Regional Semifinal: Osceola 4, Freedom 1...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Days before graduation, crash kills Lakewood High senior, injures two others

Days before graduation, crash kills Lakewood High senior, injures two others

ST. PETERSBURG — Caps and gowns were in the future for Bryson Welton-Williams and his two friends.Then came Tuesday’s horrific car crash.The three 18-year-old Lakewood High School seniors drove off from school a few minutes early, just 22 days away f...
Updated: 5 hours ago
SRO being investigated in Pasco County for arrest of student

SRO being investigated in Pasco County for arrest of student

LAND O’LAKES — A school resource officer at Sunlake High School is under investigation after he tried to take a female student into custody on Tuesday, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.School officials asked the SRO remove the student f...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Teen killed after SUV runs red light; man who fled scene captured

Teen killed after SUV runs red light; man who fled scene captured

NEW PORT RICHEY — A 17-year-old girl was killed Tuesday when her car was hit by a sport-utility vehicle that ran a red light, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.One of the occupants of the SUV who ran from the crash scene was captured hours late...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Softball: Haley Murphy, East Bay back in top form

Softball: Haley Murphy, East Bay back in top form

PLANT CITY — East Bay senior Haley Murphy had to take a few games off early this season to give the flaring tendinitis in her left knee a rest.When Murphy did come back around midseason, East Bay coach Glenn Rodriguez eased her into the fl...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Sarasota student, family apologize for racist ‘promposal’

Sarasota student, family apologize for racist ‘promposal’

The family of the 18-year-old Sarasota high school student under fire for the racist prom proposal he sent out on social media this weekend has publicly apologized for their son’s actions.They also said that as a result of his actions, he will not at...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Softball: Boca Ciega gets a shot at defending district champ

DUNEDIN — Standing in centerfield during her team's Class 6A-9 district semifinal Tuesday night, Boca Ciega's Mia Blasingane had one dominating thought: "We want Tarpon Springs real bad. I was saying that to myself. I want to see Tarpon Springs...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Softball: Alonso knocks off defending state finalist PHU in 9A-8 semifinals

PALM HARBOR — To get an idea of just how tough the competition is in Class 9A, District 8, consider that there has been a different tournament champion each of the past three seasons.All three — Newsome (2015), Alonso (2016) and Palm Harb...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rays Journal: On the early rainout, pitching plans, medical matters, more

Rays Journal: On the early rainout, pitching plans, medical matters, more

BALTIMORE – If the Rays were going to get rained out Tuesday, they were happy  the Orioles made the decision at a good hour, around 5 p.m."I think they probably did the right thing in the fact that they knew there's a bunch of rain coming,...
Updated: 6 hours ago