(Photo: Reuters/Jason Reed)
President Barack Obama acknowledged in a Monday speech that the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," health care insurance exchange website, healthcare.gov, has issues far more serious than a few "glitches." The ACA is not just a website, he reminded, and encouraged those seeking insurance on the exchanges to either call 1-800-318-2596, go to a community center, or mail in their application.
"Don't let problems with the website deter you from signing up," he said at the White House as people who have benefited from the ACA stood behind him.
The product, the health insurance on the exchange, is a good product, Obama repeated throughout the speech, but the website, "there is no sugar coating it," has problems.
The website was designed by companies that already had relationships with the government as vendors for other services. Critics have noted that those companies were not well suited to create a modern website. The problems are not just "glitches," as Obama initially called them. Rather, the platform for the website is based upon outdated, 1990's era, website programming.
Obama said his administration is currently engaged in a "tech surge" to fix the problems.
Under the ACA, most Americans will be required by law to have health insurance, or pay a fine. This is known as the "individual mandate." The health care exchanges were created to provide health insurance for those who are not on Medicare or Medicaid, do not get health insurance through their employer, or cannot afford private health insurance. Depending on level of income, some who purchase insurance on the exchanges will be eligible for government subsidies.
Republicans have called for a delay in the individual mandate due to the website failures. If people cannot even purchase health insurance through the website, they should not be fined for not having health insurance, they claim. Additionally, Republicans argue, Obama has already delayed the employer mandate to provide health coverage, so it is only fair to delay the individual mandate.
Some Democrats, especially those up for re-election next year, are growing increasingly nervous about the ACA's problems. Politico reported that several of these Democrats, who preferred not to be named, complained that they were not getting answers from the Obama administration on why the website is experiencing such massive failures, given its three year preparation time and an estimated $400 million investment. Many Democrats also appeared grateful that the news over the past few weeks had been focused on the government shutdown, rather than the ACA difficulties.
Obama never explained why the website is broken, nor apologized or took responsibility for the website's failures, as some pundits expected, but he did use the speech as an opportunity to criticize Republicans for trying to block the ACA.
"I recognize that the Republican Party has made blocking the Affordable Care Act its signature policy idea. Sometimes it seems to be the one thing that unifies the party these days. In fact, they were willing to shut down the government, and potentially harm the global economy, to try to get it repealed," he complained.