WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama declared himself frustrated on Monday with the malfunctioning website that is central to his signature healthcare law and vowed to take steps to fix it.
Scrambling to get ahead of a burgeoning political uproar over implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Obama took to the White House Rose Garden to insist the law is bigger than just a website and that eventually the bugs in the software will get worked out.
Online insurance exchanges were launched on Oct. 1 under the 2010 law, often called “Obamacare,” to offer health insurance plans to millions of uninsured Americans.
But people trying to shop for health insurance at healthcare.gov have been frustrated by error messages, long waits and system failures, with many failing to make it through the system despite repeated tries.
The president acknowledged the depth of the problem.
“There’s no sugarcoating it. The website has been too slow. People have been getting stuck during the application process. And I think it’s fair to say that nobody is more frustrated by that than I am,” Obama said.
Republicans strongly oppose the law and have begun to focus intense criticism on the healthcare system’s roll out. The law is the most important domestic policy achievement of Obama’s presidency.
The president, standing with a number of Americans who have enrolled successfully using the system, encouraged uninsured Americans to pursue alternative means to sign up for coverage, pointing them toward phone call centers and saying those who tried but failed to get into the system would be contacted personally.
Fresh expert assistance, including some of the best technology talent in the country, is being brought in to repair the website, he said.
“Nobody’s madder than me about the fact that the website isn’t working as well as it should, which means it’s going to get fixed,” he said.
The White House said last week that Obama still has “full confidence” in Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, whose department is responsible for implementing the law.