By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, besieged by bad news about the new government health care website, sought on Saturday to highlight a portion of the complex system that she said is working well.
The website, designed to let millions of uninsured Americans shop and enroll in health insurance, has been plagued by delays and error messages since it rolled out on October 1, embarrassing President Barack Obama as his administration scrambles to fix the problems.
In an upbeat blog post on Saturday, Sebelius released statistics to illustrate the volume of interest in the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and the speed of the "data hub," one piece of the complex system behind HealthCare.gov.
Sebelius praised the performance of the data hub, which connects to the Social Security Administration and Internal Revenue Service to verify applicants' identity and income.
She said it took the hub less than 1.2 seconds to route information, and called it "a model of efficiency and security."
"The Hub is on the job, and so are we," said Sebelius, who will be grilled about the website by Republican lawmakers at a hearing on Wednesday.
The hub was developed by Quality Software Services Inc, or QSSI, a unit of health insurer UnitedHealth Group.
On Friday, the Obama administration announced QSSI would now serve as "general contractor" to oversee repairs by the end of November, a step designed to build public confidence that the website can be salvaged in time for Americans to buy insurance by the end of the year.