President Barack Obama on Saturday used his weekly address to advocate for the Healthcare.gov website at the heart of its healthcare reform, the Affordable Care Act. The $ 394 million website, which makes it easier for members of the public to buy health insurance, went live on October 1 but suffered from several issues.
This week, website entrepreneurs suffered a congressional grilling, and the administration announced a relaxation of penalties related to the March 31 deadline for members of the public to purchase health insurance. On Monday, Obama was forced to defend the website’s rollout at a press conference live from the White House rose garden.
On Saturday, to put it mildly, the President said: “As you may have heard, the site is not yet functioning as it should.”
In their official response to the address, the Republicans remained on the attack. Representative Fred Upton, Chairman of the House of Commons Energy and Commerce Committee who will interview Obama’s Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius next week, said: “Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayers invested, the website is still not working for the most part. ”
A number of Republicans have called for Sebelius’ resignation.
As Healthcare.gov grappled with issues, delays and bugs, the Obama administration withstood a week of scathing attacks from Republicans seeking to present a united front and capitalize on the issue after their failure to fund reform, known as Obamacare, via the recent 16-day government shutdown.
On Friday night, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, one of the architects of the shutdown, spoke in Des Moines, Iowa. Addressing an annual Republican fundraising dinner, he said: “One of the things we’ve accomplished in the fight against Obamacare is we’ve raised the national debate on what disaster, what train wreck , how Obamacare is hurting millions of Americans across this country. “
On Saturday, pollster Whit Ayres indicated Republican determination to prosecute the president further when he told The Associated Press: These are just one of the many fundamental problems with this law.
In his speech, Obama sought to counter such views when he said, “It is… interesting to see Republicans in Congress expressing so much concern that people are having difficulty purchasing health insurance through the new website. – especially since they have spent the last few years so obsessed with denying these same people access to health insurance that they have just shut down the government and threatened not to do so.
“As I have said many times before, I am ready to work with anyone, on any idea, who is genuinely ready to improve the performance of this law. But it is high time that people cease to take root for its failure. “
On Friday, the contractor appointed by the White House to fix the website, Jeffrey Zients, set a timeline for his mission when he said, “By the end of November, Healthcare.gov will be running smoothly for the vast majority. users. The .gov site is repairable. It will take a lot of work and there are a lot of issues that need to be resolved. “
The website is supposed to make finding health insurance as easy as buying “a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon.” In his speech, Obama said, “In the coming weeks we are going to make it work as well as expected. We have people working overtime, 24/7 to increase capacity and fix these issues, every day. . “
The president also described other ways for members of the public to purchase health care, including “over the phone, by mail or in person with a specially trained navigator who can help answer your questions.”
As a sign of the damage caused by the website’s poor performance, a former Obama administration official told Reuters that even if the website was fixed, it would face skepticism from the general public.
The former official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “I think people are going to like the site and sign up for it. The problem is that once a user has a bad experience on a website , he usually does not go. want to go back. “