HealthDay News — Saying he’s confident the problems will get fixed, President Barack Obama admitted today that there is “no excuse” for the troubles plaguing the beleaguered HealthCare.gov website.
“There’s no sugar-coating it. The website has been too slow, people have been getting stuck during the application process, and I think it’s fair to say that nobody’s more frustrated by that than I am,” he said during the nearly 30-minute-long address in the White House Rose Garden.
HealthCare.gov, the federal portal serving people in 36 states, has experienced significant problems and delays since the beginning of the month despite early assurances by members of the administration that the exchanges would be up-and-running on Oct. 1. Flanked by people who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act, Obama said the online problems are related to the operation of the federal website, not the health-reform law.
Over the weekend, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced several changes to the HealthCare.gov website. A button on the homepage now offers the option to “Apply By Phone” alongside the “Apply Online” button. A “See Plans Now” button has also been added to allow users to preview health-plan prices in their area (before tax credits) without having to go through the application process.
Obama said his administration is drawing upon “some of the best IT talent in the entire country” to get the website working while redoubling efforts to ensure that consumers can buy coverage the “old-fashioned way” — over the phone or in person.
Call centers across the country have had increases in staff, and are open 24 hours a day, with help in 150 languages and wait times averaging less thena minute, the President noted. Trained personnel are available to walk applicants through the process, which usually takes about 25 minutes for an individual and 45 minutes for a family.
To date, more than a half-million people have filed applications through state and federal marketplaces. “The product, the health insurance, is good. The prices are good. It’s a good deal. People don’t just want it, they’re showing up to buy it,” Obama said. He reiterated that the insurance available through the exchanges won’t take effect until Jan. 1 and the country is “only three weeks into a six-month open-enrollment period.”