Kelly Kennedy and Catalina Camia, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will face intense questioning Wednesday from a House committee, as she testifies for the first time since the troubled rollout of the national health care law about its plagued enrollment website.
As GOP calls for her resignation grow louder, Sebelius will appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee and vow problems to HealthCare.gov will be fixed "as soon as possible."
She is also expected to place blame on contractors tasked to build the website, who said last week they were not given enough time to test the technology.
"The initial consumer experience of HealthCare.gov has not lived up to the expectations of the American people and is not acceptable," Sebelius will say, according to testimony prepared for the hearing.
Those words echo the sentiment expressed a day earlier by Marilyn Tavenner, the director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Obama administration official closest to the website's management.
In her testimony, Sebelius will say that a "subset" of the contractors for HealthCare.gov "have not met expectations."
HealthCare.gov has been shaky since its debut on Oct. 1, when open enrollment began under the Affordable Care Act. The law, which passed with no Republican support, was signed by President Obama with great fanfare in 2010 as a key to overhauling the nation's complex health care system and providing insurance to millions of people who are currently without such coverage.
Obama has stood by Sebelius, a former Kansas governor and has embarked on his own campaign to tout the law's benefits and move away from the website debacle.
Jeffrey Zients, a former White House budget deputy, said the site will be fixed by Nov. 30. Sebelius' testimony says HHS has updated the website's technology with new code and help from experts inside and outside of government.
But until HealthCare.gov gets a clean bill of health, congressional Republicans are sure to keep using the website as a focal point in their arguments that the law is an unwieldy and costly example of government intrusion.
While the administration says more than 700,000 people have created accounts to buy insurance on state and federal health exchanges since Oct. 1, Tavenner and other officials have not disclosed how many people have actually enrolled through the online network.