WHITE HOUSE —
President Barack Obama has vowed to fix problems afflicting the rollout of the new health insurance law, including software glitches frustrating Americans trying to enroll in the program.
Since enrollment for the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, as the health care law is known, formally started October 1, the main federal web site and some state exchanges have been plagued by software problems.
Americans have until March of next year to sign up for insurance or face a penalty. As problems became more embarrassing, the White House blamed heavy demand straining on line systems.
But amid increasing criticism, the administration now has sought help from the high-tech industry to fix what experts say are more than just glitches, but some serious system design flaws.
In the White House Rose Garden, with a dozen people who successfully signed up for coverage or were already benefiting from the law, Obama said he is committed to fixing what he called "kinks" in the system.
"There is no sugar coating it. The website has been too slow. People have been getting stuck during the application process. And I think it is fair to say that nobody has been more frustrated by that than I am precisely because the product is good. I want the cash registers to work. I want the check out lines to be smooth. So, I want people to be able to get this great product," said the president.
"There is no excuse" for the problems, said Obama, adding his administration is doing everything it can to boost capacity.
He stressed that while health insurance under the exchanges does not formally begin until January 1, Americans already are benefiting from key provisions, including coverage regardless of pre-existing medical conditions.
Obama acknowledged the problems have provided more ammunition to opposition Republicans whose efforts to block funding for Obamacare led to a 16-day government shutdown. But he said the "long and contentious" battle over health care reform was not fought merely because of a website.
"We waged this battle to make sure that millions of Americans in the wealthiest nation on Earth finally have the same chance to get the same security of affordable, quality health care as anybody else. That is what this is about," said Obama.
Obama said "it's time for folks to stop rooting for the failure" of the health care law, "because hardworking middle-class families are rooting for its success."
The administration has not released figures of the total number of people who have signed up successfully for coverage, but has pledged to provide that information in November.
The Department of Health and Human Services said that nearly half a million people submitted applications through the federal website and online state insurance exchanges or marketplaces.
A spokeswoman for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she intends to testify before Congress, but no date has been set. Republicans have called for Sebelius to resign, citing the problems with the health care websites.