U.S. President Barack Obama's top health official has apologized to Americans for the troubled launch of the website of his new health insurance system.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made the apology in prepared remarks at a House of Representatives committee hearing on Wednesday.
Facing tough questions from Republicans about technical problems plaguing the HealthCare.Gov website since its October 1 launch, Sebelius said "I am responsible for this debacle."
But, Sebelius said her department has brought in new management to fix the website and already has improved its performance, allowing uninsured Americans to shop for insurance plans more quickly and with fewer error messages.
Under Mr. Obama's Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, uninsured Americans have until March 31 to acquire a health care plan through the website or face a financial penalty.
Sebelius also drew criticism from Republican lawmakers who said their constituents had complained about losing their existing insurance plans due to Obamacare.
Mr. Obama has provided repeated assurances that insured Americans who like their plans will be able to keep them. Republicans accuse him of breaking his word.
President Obama is scheduled to appear in Boston, Massachusetts later Wednesday to defend his health care reform, which he has said was modeled on a law approved by then-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in 2006.
Mr. Obama is expected to note that Massachusetts' launch of the state health insurance program also had problems at the beginning.