President Obama is going into damage control mode following the embarrassing, widespread glitches Americans are reporting while signing up online for his signature Affordable Care Act.
The commander-in-chief said the errors were unacceptable during a speech from the Rose Garden on Monday, promising swift action to fix the technical problems associated with HealthCare.gov and its insurance marketplace.
“There’s no sugar coating it. The website has been too slow, people have been getting stuck during the application process…Nobody is more frustrated by that than I am,” said Obama, flanked by consumers, small business owners and pharmacists who say they have benefitted from the new law.
Obama repeatedly distinguished between the law, which he said works and will benefit millions of Americans and the technicalities of the website. “It’s not just a website, it’s much more,” he said.
He added, “I want the cash registers to work. I want the checkout lines to be smooth. I want people to be able to get this great product. And there’s no excuse for the problems…these problems are getting fixed.”
Obama said the 20 million people have visited HealthCare.gov since they began rolling out the program on Oct.1 have overloaded the system and said tech experts from the public and private sector are working nonstop to boost the system’s capacity. He also stressed that Americans could also get insurance “the old-fashioned way” – on the phone or in person and that the plans won’t kick in until Jan. 1 of next year. “Everyone who wants it will get it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Republicans bruised by the government shutdown showdown—in which lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to tie any spending plan to defunding or delaying Obamacare—have already pounced on the rocky rollout of Obama’s healthcare act.
Shortly after Obama’s remarks, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, insisted “the launch of the Obamacare exchanges has been nothing short of disaster that’s rightly earned the derision of comedians and late night talk show hosts and the anger and frustration of the American people.” Hatch added, “The question the Obama Administration must answer is why weren’t the ‘best and brightest’ working on this system from day one? This is a $400-plus million mistake at the taxpayer’s expense. It’s an embarrassment and, frankly, is all the more reason why this flawed law should be permanently delayed.”
Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska said the real problem is Obama’s “refusal to recognize the law’s serious defects.” Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said even if the technical glitches get fixed, Americans will still face “train wreck problems no IT specialist can fix.”
Obama, during his speech, jabbed Republicans who are “rooting” for ACA’s failure, admitting the glitches have only revved up his opponents.
“But we did not wage this long and contentious battle just around a website,” said Obama. “That’s not what this was about.”
Senior administration officials tell NBC News that approximately 476,000 health insurance applications have been filed through ACA’s website so far.