In visit to Cincinnati, health secretary acknowledges "rockier" start to Obamacare than planned

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - On an Obamacare panel at Cincinnati State this afternoon, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius acknowledged that the rollout of the health insurance website did not go well.

"Now I'll be the first to tell you that the website launch was rockier than we would've liked," she told a packed conference room. "Lots and lots of interest. And difficultly getting people on the site and getting them to the plans."

As health secretary, Sebelius is the Cabinet member with the most responsibility for getting Pres. Obama's signature legislative goal to actually work in the real world. She claims it's getting better.

"I can tell you here two weeks later, there are vast improvements in the system and we are still not satisfied," she said. "We want to make this a seamless, easy-to-use product at"

Sebelius is from Cincinnati and was introduced by Mayor Mark Mallory, though they only passed in the hallway because Sebelius was 50 minutes late getting to the event and the mayor was due at another meeting. She told the audience that her family and the Mallorys go way back and are great friends. Sebelius is the daughter of former Gov. John Gilligan (D-Ohio), who passed away on August 26. Sebelius jokingly called herself a "recovering governor" at today's event. She was the governor of Kansas, until Pres. Obama selected her to head HHS shortly after he came into office.

In a familiar refrain for members of the Obama Administration, Secretary Sebelius told the crowd at Cincinnati State that if they already have private insurance they'll be able to keep it under Obamacare.

"About 85 percent of Americans already have health coverage," she said. "And frankly, that coverage stays in place."

But a 60-year-old part-time worker from Montgomery came up to members of the media after Sebelius left to say that's not the case for her.

"I was not allowed to keep my plan with Anthem because among the mandates in the new plan is that everyone must have treatment (coverage) for substance abuse and mental health issues," said Kathy Leugers. "I do not need or want that. But my current plan doesn't have that so it forces me to change."

She was a packet of information from Anthem Blue Cross informing her that a new plan that meets the minimum requirements of Obamacare would cost at least $519 a month. However, that comes with a $10,000 annual deductible. So Leugers feels she's being forced into a plan that costs $663 a month, with has a $6,000 deductible.

She's also angry that she won't be able to keep her doctor. Anthem told her that it won't be paying as much for her prescription drugs, either.

"So the network and the medicine coverage under the Affordable Care Act will be less than what I have under my current plan," she said. Luegers added that technically she'll be able to keep her current $374/month plan for another year before it goes out of existence.

Secretary Sebelius points to people Obamacare is helping, though. She recalled a story about a 26-year-old videographer in Georgia who's not a fan of Pres. Obama or the new healthcare law. However, according to Sebelius, after coming down with lead poising he is grateful that he'll soon have coverage.

In addition, Sebelius said if Ohio leaders agree to expand Medicaid, another 700,000 residents --- 96,000 of them in Cincinnati --- will be covered by the government health insurance program for the poor. While conservatives worry federal funding for the program will eventually disappear and leave states with a huge bill, Sebelius said that Washington's contribution will never fall below 90 percent.