them how and why the Obamacare rollout got bogged down with computer
problems. HHS says it’s getting expert help.
shutdown, which saw hundreds of thousands of federal workers
furloughed, national parks closed, and other disruptions. And the
launch of the Affordable Care Act, which was always going to be
The first problem was solved — temporarily, at least — when
Republicans and Democrats worked out a stopgap spending deal, also
heading off (for now) a government default on its debts. By most
accounts, the White House came out the winner, although President
Obama was careful not to beat his chest too much about it.
The second problem — the president’s signature achievement so far,
known as “Obamacare” — has only gotten worse.
The White House reported this weekend that about 19 million people
have visited HealthCare.gov and 476,000 individuals have applied
online for health insurance.
But officials have yet to say how many people have actually bought a
policy. In any case, it’s a long way from the 7 million people the
administration wants to see enrolled for health insurance through
online exchanges during the six-month sign-up period.
Computer “glitches” seem massive. USA Today reports that “the federal
health care exchange was built using 10-year-old technology that may
require constant fixes and updates for the next six months and the
eventual overhaul of the entire system.”
Mr. Obama, presumably, has been asking sharp questions of his staff.
“I think that there’s no one more frustrated than the president at the
difficulty in the website,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said on NBC’s
“Meet the Press” Sunday.
The coming week should see significant political activity surrounding Obamacare.
Obama is scheduled to speak about it at a health-care event Monday.
House Republicans, who had predicted for months that Obamacare
implementation would be a “train wreck,” have scheduled the first
hearings into the severe flaws in the computer system for this coming
week, Politico.com reports. So far Health and Human Services Secretary
Kathleen Sebelius has declined to testify before the House Energy and
“As the news continues to get worse, it’s time for Secretary Sebelius
to provide answers to Congress,” the committee said in a statement
Friday. Republican lawmakers are particularly miffed that Secretary
Sebelius went on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” but so far has
declined to appear before Congress.
“Ultimately, Secretary Sebelius will testify,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D) of
Illinois told “Fox News Sunday,” although he did not say if
“ultimately” might include this Thursday’s scheduled hearing in the
Democrats like Senator Durbin and other party leaders in Congress are
in an embarrassing spot — having to publicly support a program that
not all favored.
“What has happened is unacceptable,” House minority leader Nancy
Pelosi said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “There is much that needs to
be done to correct the situation.”
“This has to be fixed but what doesn’t have to be fixed is the fact
that tens of millions more people will have access to affordable
quality health care,” she added.
The answer, Sen. John McCain said on CNN Sunday, is to “send Air Force
One out to Silicon Valley, load it up with some smart people, bring
them back to Washington, and fix this problem.”
Apparently, that’s sort of what the administration has in mind.
In a blog post Sunday, the Department of Health and Human Services said this:
“Our team is bringing in some of the best and brightest from both
inside and outside government to scrub in with the team and help
improve HealthCare.gov. We’re also putting in place tools and
processes to aggressively monitor and identify parts of HealthCare.gov
where individuals are encountering errors or having difficulty using
the site, so we can prioritize and fix them. We are also defining new
test processes to prevent new issues from cropping up as we improve
the overall service and deploying fixes to the site during off-peak
hours on a regular basis.”
“The initial consumer experience of HealthCare.gov has not lived up to
the expectations of the American people,” HHS said — an acknowledgment
with which there is universal agreement.