Obama: 'No sugar-coating' healthcare.gov website's flaws

Oct. 21, 2013 at 1:22 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- President Obama said he was upset over the "kinks" with the health insurance marketplace website, but urged Americans not to get frustrated.

"There's no sugar-coating it," Obama said of healthcare.gov, calling it slow and noting applicants were stuck in the application process. "Nobody's more frustrated about that than I am. I want the cash registers to work and the checkout line to be smooth."

"And there's no excuse for the problems. [These] problems are getting fixed. But while we're working out the kinks in the system, I want everybody to understand the nature of the problem."

Noting that 20 million people have visited the site since it went live, Obama said even with the problems, healthcare.gov "is still working for a lot of people, just not as quick or efficient or consistent as we want."

The administration has said during the last several weeks that people should anticipate glitches with rollout, but Monday's comments indicated the matter was much more systemic.

Standing on the steps outside of the White House with Obama were several people who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act or helping to explain the ACA.

But, he said, the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare, is so much more than "just a website."

"We did not a wage long, contentious battle just around the website," Obama said outside the White House, later adding, "Our goal has always been to declare that in this country, the security of healthcare is not a privilege for a fortunate few. It's a right for all to enjoy."

An army of IT personnel were working around the clock to try to resolve the issues that have bogged down healthcare.gov since it went live Oct. 1. He did not say what was being resolved or how long it would take.

"We are doing everything we can possibly do to get the website working better, faster, sooner," Obama said. "We are confident we will get all the problems fixed."

Much of the nation's attention in recent weeks has been focused on the partial shutdown of the federal government, spurred initially by conservative, the desire of Tea Party movement-supported Republicans to defund the ACA as a condition for passing a resolution to temporarily fund the government. As the U.S. moved closer to the deadline when it would no longer have borrowing authority, an 11th-hour deal was struck by the Senate leadership, passed overwhelmingly by both houses and signed by Obama.

Republicans have seized on healthcare.gov's woes to attack the ACA.

"The point is, the essence of the law -- affordable healthcare for people -- is working just fine," Obama said. "But the problem has been the website that's supposed to make it easy to apply" hasn't lived up to expectations.

Obama said Monday even though healthcare.gov was experiencing problems, people could still apply for health coverage either over the phone or in person.

Noting that it would take at least 25 minutes to apply, Obama said, "it's worth the wait ... [for] the safety and security" of affordable health insurance.

Obama also said people who applied for coverage on the website and became stuck "somewhere along the way" will be contacted to complete the application process.

"The product -- health insurance -- is good. The prices are good. It's a good deal," Obama said. "People don't just want it -- they're showing up to buy it."

He noted the country was three weeks into a six-month open enrollment period coverage under the plans doesn't kick in until Jan. 1.

"Everybody who wants insurance through the marketplace will get it," Obama said.

He read a letter from a self-employed man who said the application process was frustrating and the website "really stank for the first week," but through the marketplace he found coverage for him and his wife that cost $692 a month instead of the $1,600 he was paying for group coverage.

Near the end of his comments, a young woman standing near Obama on the steps to the White House was overcome and weak-kneed. She was escorted away by White House staff.

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