CAPITOL HILL —
A U.S. official has apologized for the technical problems plaguing the online component of the president’s signature health care law and promised to see them fixed by the end of next month. The Obama administration is defending the measure known as Obamacare, amid press reports some Americans are losing their existing health care coverage and are unable to sign up for new policies.
Lawmakers from both parties continue to express dismay over glitches with online exchanges where Americans are supposed to sign up for private health care insurance at subsidized rates according to income level. Appearing before a congressional panel, the head of two federal health care programs, Marilyn Tavenner, responded to the outcry.
“To the millions of Americans who have attempted to use healthcare.gov
to shop and enroll in health care coverage, I want to apologize to you that the website has not worked as well as it should. We know how desperately you need affordable coverage," she said. "I want to assure you that healthcare-dot-gov can and will be fixed, and we are working around the clock to deliver the shopping experience that you deserve.”
The assurance did not convince Republicans like Congressman Kevin Brady, who noted that the administration previously promised the website would be functional on its October 1 launch date.
“None of that proved to be true. Now we are told everything will be OK very soon," he said. "So why should the American people believe you now?”
Tavenner replied that the overall system is already functional despite technical problems.
“It is working. It is just not working at the speed we want and at the success rate we want," she said. "And those are the things we are working on.”
Online improvements are not enough, according to Republican Congressman Dave Camp, who said, “While the website can eventually be fixed, the widespread problems with Obamacare cannot. Almost daily we hear reports of Obamacare increasing costs, harming job creation, and forcing Americans off their current plan.”
Democrats dispute those claims, saying the Affordable Care Act will reduce the nation’s total health care costs over time and provide coverage to millions of low-income Americans who currently lack insurance. And, Democrats say, Republicans are politically motivated to root for Obamacare’s failure. Congressman Sander Levin:
“Democrats want to make the Affordable Care Act work," he said. "Congressional Republicans do not.”
Other Democrats urged patience, noting that Obamacare is a massive undertaking barely a month into its full implementation.
That argument is likely to be echoed by the president’s point person for Obamacare, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who is scheduled to testify before another congressional panel Wednesday.