Obama: Health care website problems inexcusable

A defiant President Obama said Monday he is mad about problems with a new health care website, but argued that the Affordable Care Act as a whole is working as planned.

While Healthcare.gov "hasn't worked as smoothly as it was supposed to work," Obama said during a White House speech that once-uninsured Americans have signed up for coverage and are receiving benefits.

"The product -- the health insurance -- is good," Obama said. "The prices are good. It is a good deal."

Facing attacks from Republicans and other critics of Obamacare, the president said his health care team is reaching out to tech experts to help fix massive website problems that have hampered the rollout of his landmark piece of legislation.

"Nobody's madder than me about the fact that the website isn't working as well as it should," Obama said, "which means it's going to get fixed."

Aside from the website, Obama said the new health care law is providing consumer protections and benefits for millions of Americans, including mammograms and birth control services. He told stories of now-covered Americans who had once been denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions.

"The essence of the law, the health insurance that's available to people, is working just fine," Obama said.

Congressional Republicans who opposed the 2010 health care law -- a key factor in this month's government shutdown -- said the initial problems call the entire program into question.

Citing reports that few people have signed up for health care exchanges, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that "another campaign-style event won't solve the myriad problems facing consumers under Obamacare."

McConnell said that "for months, the American people have been learning about the impact Obamacare will have on individuals and families in the form of higher premiums, disrupted insurance and lost jobs -- more broken promises from the administration."

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., a prominent critic of the new law, said the president designed his speech to "draw the media's attention to a handful of persons who have applied for Obamacare -- while ignoring the untold number of Americans who are losing the plans they liked because of Obamacare."

Cruz and a number of House Republicans opposed a new budget plan unless it defunded the health care law, leading to the 16-day shutdown that ended just last week. Some Republicans also objected to increasing the debt ceiling unless some provisions of the law were delayed.

In his White House speech, Obama said Republicans are playing "politics" with the health care law, saying that "they were willing to shut down the government and potentially harm the global economy to try to get it repealed."

Obama said the website isn't the only way people can sign for health care coverage. He said call centers have expanded, and people can also apply in person at federal offices across the country.

In a blog post, the Department of Health and Human Services said some users of HealthCare.gov "have had trouble creating accounts and logging in to the site, while others have received confusing error messages, or had to wait for slow page loads or forms that failed to respond in a timely fashion."

As a result, HHS said it is "bringing in some of the best and brightest from both inside and outside government to scrub in with the team and help improve HealthCare.gov."

The administration did not provide specific names of experts, not have they reported exactly how many people have signed up for new insurance exchanges.

For his speech in the Rose Garden, the president was joined by consumers, small business owners and pharmacists who, the White House said, "have either benefited from the health care law already or are helping consumers learn about what the law means for them and how they can get covered."

Obama's guests also included "individuals who have already applied for and enrolled in quality, affordable coverage through the marketplaces and those who are planning to after exploring and comparing their new health care options," the White House said.

On a sunny day, one of the White House guests nearly fainted during Obama's remarks.

Said the president: "That's what happens when I talk too long."


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