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'Burn Their Fingers, Make Them Pay'

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Florida's U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Wednesday he wants the Obama administration to hold the contractors accountable --"burn their fingers, make them pay" -- for the disastrous launch of

That's the online sign-up site for the uninsured under the Affordable Care Act. It has worked only intermittently since its launch Oct. 1.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who testified before the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday, said the administration and contractors QSSI and CGI are working feverishly to get the website running smoothly by the end of November.  The contractors won't receive full payment until that happens, she said.

"We have new management with QSSI (the lead contractor)," Sebelius said, as shown in a video posted  by Nelson's office. "We will make sure that the funding that has been provided delivers on the product that was promised. It is not there yet."

Nelson responded: "As someone who has fought and bled for this and sincerely thinks that it's going to work in the long run, I want you to hold them to account. I want you to burn their fingers, make them pay for not being responsible and producing a product that all of us can be proud."

Florida's senior senator, a Democrat, also took a swipe at Florida's Republican governor and Legislature, which wanted nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act, including setting up a health-insurance exchange. He contrasted it with another southern state, Kentucky, which decided to set up its own enrollment site.

"Take a state like Kentucky. They did their work. in the first month they signed up 30,000 people. Look at my state. It's one of 27 states that I think basically because of politics, they decided not to do anything (connected to the ACA)," he said.

Nelson concludes with an unanswerable question: "Why couldn't we have been like Kentucky...?"

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.