on October 22, 2013 by admin in Insurance Industry, Comments (0)

Obama Vows Fixes To Health Insurance Website

President Barack Obama said Monday that there's "no excuse" for the technical problems that have plagued the rollout of the Obamacare health insurance website, and promised all Americans would have access to health coverage under his law.

"There's no sugar-coating it. The website has been too slow, people have been getting stuck during the application process," Obama said from the White House's Rose Garden. "Nobody's more frustrated than I am." The president said he is "confident" that the myriad problems with the website, HealthCare.gov, will soon be fixed. The site is the access point to the health insurance exchanges the federal government is operating in more than 30 states.

Nearly three weeks into the rollout of Obama's signature domestic policy achievement, evidence is mounting that the technological difficulties stymieing enrollment into health insurance are deeper than the White House anticipated and could take weeks or longer to address.

While consumers can sign up for insurance until March 31, other pressing deadlines are nearer. People have until Dec. 15 to choose a health plan that will be in place on Jan. 1. And the new year also marks the beginning of Obamacare's individual mandate that nearly every legal U.S. resident obtain some form of health coverage or face tax penalties. A health plan must be chosen by Feb. 15 to avoid paying a portion of the penalty.

"Nobody's madder than me about the fact the website isn't working as well as it should, which means it's going to get fixed," Obama said. "Everybody who wants insurance through the marketplace will get insurance. Period."

Obama offered no details about the nature of the technical problems with HealthCare.gov, and said nothing specific about how or when his administration and the private contractors overseeing the enrollment system will repair them. Private-sector experts in information technology have joined the effort, Obama said. "We're well into a tech surge to fix the problem," he added.

The administration has not said who these experts are, how many are working on HealthCare.gov, or what they're doing to fix the problems.

Uncertainty about the health insurance exchanges, also called marketplaces, threatens the ability of millions of consumers -- including many low-income, uninsured people -- to sign up for health coverage for 2014. Health insurance companies also face the risk that most of the people who put in the effort to enroll while the sign-up process remains difficult will be those with the greatest health care needs -- who are the costliest to cover.

Republican opponents of the health care reform law, known as the Affordable Care Act, have fought the project since its conception at the beginning of Obama's presidency in 2009. Now, the tumultuous beginnings of Obamacare's first enrollment period are providing new fodder for criticism.

The government shutdown that ended last week overshadowed the failures of HealthCare.gov during its first two weeks, but scrutiny is intensifying now that that crisis is over. An oversight committee in the Republican-led House has scheduled a hearing about the website for Thursday, but Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Obama's top health adviser, will not attend to offer testimony. Sebelius is increasingly is under fire, with several GOP lawmakers calling for her resignation.

Democrats on Capitol Hill are beginning to levy stark criticisms of their own. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) called the website problems "unacceptable" during an appearance on ABC News' "This Week" Sunday.

Obama addressed supporters of his law Monday, seeking to remind them why they sought health care reform in the first place.

"But we did not wage this long and contentious battle just around a website," Obama said. "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 quality, affordable health care as anybody else."

Beneath the struggles consumers have faced using Health.Care.gov are potentially more consequential issues, such as health insurance companies receiving incorrect data from the government systems about their new customers.

The administration revealed Saturday that 476,000 Americans had applied for health coverage via the health insurance exchanges.

"The number of people who have visited the site is overwhelming, which is aggravating these underlying problems. Despite all that, thousands of people are signing up," Obama said Monday.

The bulk of that activity, however, is taking place in states that are operating their own health insurance exchanges, such as Kentucky, New York and Washington state. The Department of Health and Human Services won't say how many people have actually purchased health insurance via HealthCare.gov until the middle of November. States vary in how they are reporting activity on their health insurance exchanges, with some reporting the numbers of applications received and others revealing the number of individuals who have made a final choice of health coverage.

HealthCare.gov also underwent some cosmetic changes over the weekend, including a prominent button directing consumers to the telephone hotline and more direct access to average local prices for health insurance products. But visitors to the website still must create an account, verify their identities and, if applicable, apply for financial assistance in order to see the prices they actually will pay and to enroll into coverage. For now, those functions remain glitchy.

During his remarks Monday, Obama highlighted the availability of paper applications, the federal health insurance exchanges' telephone hotline and in-person help from "navigators" and others. "Don't let problems with the website deter you from signing up," he said.

These options are limited, however, in part because they still require the exchanges' information-technology infrastructure to function.

Related on HuffPost:

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  • 1912

    Former President Theodore Roosevelt champions national health insurance as he unsuccessfully tries to ride his progressive Bull Moose Party back to the White House. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

  • 1935

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt favors creating national health insurance amid the Great Depression but decides to push for Social Security first. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • 1942

    Roosevelt establishes wage and price controls during World War II. Businesses can't attract workers with higher pay so they compete through added benefits, including health insurance, which grows into a workplace perk. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

  • 1945

    President Harry Truman calls on Congress to create a national insurance program for those who pay voluntary fees. The American Medical Association denounces the idea as "socialized medicine" and it goes nowhere. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • 1960

    John F. Kennedy makes health care a major campaign issue but as president can't get a plan for the elderly through Congress. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • 1965

    President Lyndon B. Johnson's legendary arm-twisting and a Congress dominated by his fellow Democrats lead to creation of two landmark government health programs: Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1974

    President Richard Nixon wants to require employers to cover their workers and create federal subsidies to help everyone else buy private insurance. The Watergate scandal intervenes. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

  • 1976

    President Jimmy Carter pushes a mandatory national health plan, but economic recession helps push it aside. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

  • 1986

    President Ronald Reagan signs COBRA, a requirement that employers let former workers stay on the company health plan for 18 months after leaving a job, with workers bearing the cost. (MIKE SARGENT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1988

    Congress expands Medicare by adding a prescription drug benefit and catastrophic care coverage. It doesn't last long. Barraged by protests from older Americans upset about paying a tax to finance the additional coverage, Congress repeals the law the next year. (TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1993

    President Bill Clinton puts first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in charge of developing what becomes a 1,300-page plan for universal coverage. It requires businesses to cover their workers and mandates that everyone have health insurance. The plan meets Republican opposition, divides Democrats and comes under a firestorm of lobbying from businesses and the health care industry. It dies in the Senate. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 1997

    Clinton signs bipartisan legislation creating a state-federal program to provide coverage for millions of children in families of modest means whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid. (JAMAL A. WILSON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 2003

    President George W. Bush persuades Congress to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare in a major expansion of the program for older people. (STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 2008

    Hillary Rodham Clinton promotes a sweeping health care plan in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. She loses to Obama, who has a less comprehensive plan. (PAUL RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • 2009

    President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress spend an intense year ironing out legislation to require most companies to cover their workers; mandate that everyone have coverage or pay a fine; require insurance companies to accept all comers, regardless of any pre-existing conditions; and assist people who can't afford insurance. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

  • 2010

    With no Republican support, Congress passes the measure, designed to extend health care coverage to more than 30 million uninsured people. Republican opponents scorned the law as "Obamacare." (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

  • 2012

    On a campaign tour in the Midwest, Obama himself embraces the term "Obamacare" and says the law shows "I do care." (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Article source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/21/obama-health-insurance-website_n_4124408.html

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