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Obama: No ‘sugarcoating’ problems with health website

Sebelius expected to testify at a congressional hearing next week

CNN News Wire | 10/21/2013, 4:58 p.m.
Protesters, for and against the controversial Affordable Care Act, demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

An unscripted moment Monday summed up President Barack Obama’s effort to downplay problems plaguing the government website used to sign up for required health insurance under his signature health care reforms.

As Obama argued that the law was good and the website’s problems would be fixed, one of the people chosen to stand behind him in the White House Rose Garden started to teeter.

Others supported the woman, Karmel Allison of San Diego, who appeared on the verge of passing out, and Obama quickly turned to help.

“I got you. You’re OK,” he said, reaching out to Allison. He then joked, “This happens when I talk too long.”

In the same assured and upbeat manner, Obama also attempted to discuss the myriad problems of HealthCare.gov, the website for the 15% of Americans lacking health coverage to sign up for insurance.

Saying there was no “sugarcoating” the login difficulties, long waits, repeated failures and other problems, the President added that tech industry experts were being brought in to help workers going 24/7 to resolve the website woes.

“Nobody’s madder than me about the website not working as well as it should, which means it’s going to get fixed,” Obama said without specifying exactly what went wrong or who was to blame.

At the same time, he argued that the health insurance available through the 2010 Affordable Care Act provided Americans previously unable to get coverage with the security of knowing that an accident or illness wouldn’t bankrupt them.

Though some people are having trouble applying, those who have had the chance to enroll through HealthCare.gov are “thrilled with the result,” and people can apply in ways other than the website, including though a call center and in person, Obama said.

He noted that new marketplaces under the law opened October 1, the same day House Republicans forced a government shutdown by trying to link continued funding to their demands to dismantle or defund the health care reforms.

“It’s time for folks to stop rooting for its failure, because hardworking middle class families are rooting for its success,” Obama said of the health care law.

The political showdown over government spending and raising the federal borrowing limit, which ended last week, distracted public attention from the problems of the new health care system.

Obama administration officials have highlighted the fact that nearly 500,000 people have filled out applications for Obamacare, though the number who purchased coverage remains unknown.

Initial difficulties have started to ease for logging on to the website for the new exchanges, some of which are run by states and others by the federal government. Now, problems are occurring further along the process, with insurance industry sources having said they are getting some applications with missing information.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Monday showed that 56% of respondents consider the website difficulties a harbinger of broader problems with the Affordable Care Act, a constant target of conservative critics who consider it the epitome of big government overreach.

Republicans kept up their attacks on the health care reforms Monday, with the office of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell tweeting that when a visit to the Obamacare website made a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles seem pleasant, “it’s time for the President to consider delaying this rushed effort.”