(Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama said the widespread flaws afflicting online insurance exchanges under his health care law represent only a portion of the program, as he sought to fend off critics of his signature legislative achievement.
Obama said the federal online health exchanges that are central to getting as many as 7 million uninsured Americans covered under the Affordable Care Act haven’t met expectations. The administration will commit the resources needed to find a solution, he said.
“Nobody’s madder than me,” he said about the slow operations. “Which means it’s going to get fixed,” Obama said at a White House Rose Garden event Monday intended to emphasize the benefits for the uninsured, businesses and health-care providers under the ACA.
The law provides “a wide range of consumer protections and benefits,” such as mandates for coverage of preventative care and allowing young people to remain on their parents’ plans up to age 26, he said. “The affordable care act is not just a website.”
It was the first time Obama addressed the law at length since last week’s end of a 16-day partial government shutdown that was triggered by a standoff over demands by some Republicans that the law be stripped of funding or delayed. The fiscal stalemate overshadowed the technical flaws that have plagued the healthcare.gov website since it went live Oct. 1.
The hobbled rollout has made Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius a target of the law’s critics. Republican U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, from Sebelius’s home state of Kansas, has called for her resignation.
Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, said in an e-mailed statement that, “Somebody ought to be accountable for this mess, and if the president isn’t going to resign, it’s up to him to figure out who should.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney said last week that Obama has “full confidence” in Sebelius, who attended Monday’s White House event.
The department said yesterday it’s asking a group of the “best and brightest” technical experts from inside and outside the government to bring the site up to speed. A blog post yesterday on the HHS website promised a “tech surge” to fix the online portal.
The government also asked the site’s main contractor, a unit of Montreal-based CGI Group Inc., to add staff and assign its “A-Team” to the efforts, Jason Young, an HHS spokesman said in a phone interview Sunday.
The online portal “hasn’t worked as smoothly as it was supposed to” Obama said. “Despite all that thousands of people are signing up and saving money as we speak.”
About 8.6 million people visited the federal website in the first week, running into software flaws and long waits that prevented them, in many cases, from registering to check out insurance offerings. At one point, the site posted error messages in at least 24 states. Independent, state-run exchange websites have seen far fewer waits and flaws.
The administration has said it will release enrollment figures from the federal healthcare.gov website monthly, starting in mid-November. The six-month period for signing up for insurance coverage ends March 31.
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