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October 20, 2013

Washington Week: Focus on Obamacare Woes

by Michael Bowman

This week will bring renewed scrutiny of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, a key portion of which has been hobbled by technical glitches since going online at the beginning of the month.

The U.S. government is funded once again, allowing landmarks like the National Zoo to reopen.
 
“The animals have missed you, the people have missed you. We need you back,” remarked National Zoo director Dennis Kelly as he welcomed back visitors following a 16-day shutdown.
 
The fiscal impasse that sent America to the edge of a debt default also diverted the nation’s attention from another problem: the roll-out of online health insurance marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Nearly three weeks since its launch, the system is barely functional, with many insurance shoppers unable to even create an account.
 
“It is just one dead end after the other. It is hour after hour after hour trying to find out where my insurance is and what it is going to cost,” said frustrated Obamacare user Dan Howard.
 
Later this week, the Republican-led House of Representatives will probe the glitches. The administration’s top health official, Kathleen Sebelius, has admitted problems in even tracking the number of successful users.
 
“How many enrolled? I cannot tell you, because I do not know," conceded Sebelius during a recent appearance on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show.
 
Frustrations extend to President Obama, according to White House Spokesman Jay Carney.
 
“He is not happy with it and has insisted that everybody work 24/7 (non-stop) to fix the problems that exist,” said Carney.
 
Republican opposition to Obamacare was a major driver of the fiscal impasse that halted federal operations and risked a debt default. Many Republican lawmakers say they are reassessing their tactics, but will not abandon the fight against the law. Among the initiative’s chief critics is Senator Ted Cruz
 
“My focus is, I think, where the American people’s focus is: what are we doing to provide real relief to the people who are hurting because of Obamacare?” – said Cruz.
 
On foreign matters, President Obama will welcome Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the White House Wednesday.