Gardner harshly questions Sebelius over ‘Brosurance’, waivers

DENVER — Colorado Congressman Cory Gardner was among the most boisterous of those questioning Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning over the problem-plagued Obamacare roll-out.

Gardner, R-Yuma, stuck to the script he laid out to FOX31 Denver on Monday, asking Sebelius if she approves of an edgy Colorado ad campaign urging young college-aged men and women to buy ‘Brosurance’ on the state’s new health insurance exchange.

During Wednesday’s hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Gardner held up a large poster board showing the ad itself, which shows three young men engaged in a keg stand under the text, ‘Got Insurance?’

“Do you agree with this kind of advertising?” Gardner asked, gesturing toward the poster board held up by a staffer over his shoulder.

“I can’t see it,” Sebelius responded.

“It’s a college student doing a keg stand,” Gardner explained.

“I did not approve it,” Sebelius answered, talking over Gardner. “This is a state-based marketplace.”

Gardner also referred to the Brosurance campaign as something “that a board member of the Colorado exchange brought forward”, although the ad is actually the work of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and Progress Now, two progressive groups that are not associated with Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s exchange.

Gardner also hastily made a formal request for a waiver exempting his constituents in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District from Obamacare’s individual mandate, which will force them to pay a fine if they’re not insured by the end of March 2014.

Sebelius, who’s been under fire over the problems with the launch of healthcare.gov, apologized for what she called a “debacle” and said she was “as frustrated and angry as anyone with the flawed launch.”

Sebelius acknowledged that comprehensive testing of the website, which began in mid-September, was inadequate.

She also acknowledged that the cancellation of many healthcare policies purchased on the private insurance market — the plans Obama long said policy-holders could keep — is the result of the Affordable Care Act.

Gardner held up a much ballyhooed letter sent to his family cancelling their plan and described the situation.

“I don’t know how long you’ve had your policy,” Sebelius said, before Gardner cut her off.

“Why aren’t you losing your insurance?” he asked. “Why aren’t you in the exchange? You’re literally in charge of this law; why shouldn’t you be like everyone else out there who are losing their health insurance?”

“I’m part of the 95 percent with affordable, available health insurance,” Sebelius responded, explaining she qualifies for coverage as a federal employee.

“I’m not eligible.”

While some Republicans in Washington cheered Gardner’s tough questioning, Democrats took issue with what they viewed as political grandstanding — and took to Twitter to criticize the congressman.