WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama said Monday that he was angry and frustrated with the failures of the federal governments new health care website and he vowed to solve them as soon as possible.
Obama said a team of Americas top private-sector tech experts was working around the clock to fix healthcare.gov, though he and his staff declined to name the companies that are involved or to provide a deadline.
Theres no sugarcoating it, the president said at a Rose Garden event with supporters of the health care overhaul. Its fair to say that nobody is more frustrated by that than I am. . . . Theres no excuse for the problems, and these problems are getting fixed.
Obama, in his first extensive remarks since the botched Oct. 1 rollout of the insurance marketplace, said the law that aims to provide more comprehensive, affordable health coverage remained a success and that any problems stemmed from interest that exceeded expectations. Nearly 20 million people have visited the website, and more than half a million have successfully submitted applications.
The product is good, the president said. The health insurance thats being provided is good. Its high quality and its affordable.
The federal marketplace was supposed to provide a one-stop site for users in 36 states to browse, compare and enroll in qualified health plans. But numerous software problems overwhelmed the site shortly after the enrollment period for 2014 coverage began. Some improvements have been made, but delays and malfunctions continue.
A new Washington Post-ABC poll released Monday found that 56 percent of Americans say the website problems are part of a broader problem with the laws implementation, while just 40 percent see them as an isolated incident. Recent polls generally find that more people oppose the law than support it.
Consumers have until March 31 to sign up for coverage. The administration doesnt expect to extend the deadline, but it appeared to open the door Monday to the possibility that those who were trying to purchase insurance and had problems with the website might be exempted from the laws penalty for remaining uninsured.
Under current rules, people who buy marketplace coverage after Feb. 15 could be subject to fines under the individual mandate which requires most Americans to have insurance or pay a penalty because their enrollment may not begin in time to meet the deadline. The administration is considering new rules that would allow marketplace coverage purchased after Feb. 15 to be eligible under the mandate.
The law is clear that if you do not have access to affordable health insurance, you will not be forced to pay a penalty, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Republicans insistence that the health care makeover be delayed or defunded led to the partial shutdown of the federal government, but the bill that reopened the government last week after 16 days included no substantive changes to the program.
The taxpayers have already shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars to build the original website, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said after Obama spoke. How much more money is President Obama going to demand?
The presidents Rose Garden appearance seemed at times like a campaign rally. More than 100 supporters were seated in the audience, applauding regularly as he spent the bulk of his 25-minute speech touting some of the benefits of the law: free preventative care, cheaper medicine for seniors and insurance for those who have pre-existing medical conditions.