Seconds after Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius was sworn in for testimony at a hearing Wednesday morning, she reached for the microphone.
"You gotta use that mic," Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee told her. "You don't know how many people want to hear you this morning."
In her long-awaited remarks on the Affordable Care Act website's rocky rollout, Sebelius apologized to the millions of uninsured Americans who encountered numerous error messages while trying to sign up for health plans through HealthCare.gov.
"I am as frustrated and angry as anyone with the flawed launch of HealthCare.gov," she said. "You deserve better. I apologize. I'm accountable to you to fixing this problem, and I'm committed to earning your confidence back by fixing the site."
The secretary ran through a list of improvements her department has made in the weeks since the website launched on Oct 1., including more IT staffers and a new general contractor to identify and manage glitches. The website can now process up to 17,000 registration accounts per hour, she said.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., pressed Sebelius to explain who was responsible "for this debacle." Sebelius named Michelle Snyder, chief of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, but did not say she was accountable. "Hold me accountable for the debacle," she said. "I'm responsible."
Sebelius said the website will be fully functional by the end of November. "It isn't fair to ask the American public to take our word for it," she said of the deadline. "I've got to fix this problem and we are under way doing that.