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Sebellius health insurance quip lights up Twittersphere

Tom-pants-art

At the tail end of three and a half hours of testimony before Congress about the online healthcare marketplace, Healthcare.gov, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had a testy exchange with Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.,reports PolitiFact.

Asked why she wasn’t enrolling in the exchanges herself, Sebelius said,"If I have affordable coverage in my workplace, I'm not eligible to go into the marketplace. ... It’s illegal." 

How could that be, PolitiFact wondered, when the feds' own website instructs people with job-based insurance,"If you'd like to explore marketplace coverage options you can."

So they checked it out at the source, Sebelius's own agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, which confirmed its chief misspoke. 

"Individuals who have health insurance through their employer can sign up for the online marketplaces, it’s just not financially beneficial for most to do so," writes PolitiFact.

"A spokeswoman for the department said Sebelius meant to say, "Marketplace plans cannot be sold to a Medicare enrollee, and the secretary is a Medicare enrollee."

"While Sebelius receives health benefits from her government job, as of May, she is also 65 years old and therefore eligible for free Medicare Part A, which covers hospital visits. She can couple those benefits with her employer insurance, but according to guidelines released Oct. 4 by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, "it is illegal to knowingly sell or issue a Qualified Health Plan to a Medicare beneficiary" on the government-run insurance marketplaces.

PolitiFact might want to rate that statement, too. CMS acknowledges that nothing in the Affordable Care Act mentions whether Medicare enrollees are eligible for the health insurance marketplaces. But the Obama administration is using a section of the Social Security Act, also known as the Medicare Anti-Duplication provision, that bars private insurance companies from offering coverage to Medicare enrollees. A story for another day.

Back to Sebelius: No, it's not "illegal" for her to buy insurance on the exchange because she already has an afforder plan with her employer, PolitiFact says. It's just doesn't make financial sense for her to do so. Read the story. 

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