The Times West Virginian

Headline News

October 21, 2013

For Obama, a frustrating health care rollout

President to address technical problems with website today

WASHINGTON — Last week, President Barack Obama gathered some of his top advisers in the Oval Office to discuss the problem-plagued rollout of his health care legislation. He told his team the administration had to own up to the fact that there were no excuses for not having the health care website ready to operate on Day One.

The admonition from a frustrated president came amid the embarrassing start to signups for the health care insurance exchanges. The president is expected to address the cascade of computer problems today during an event at the White House.

Administration officials say more than 476,000 health insurance applications have been filed through federal and state exchanges. The figures mark the most detailed measure yet of the problem-plagued rollout of the insurance marketplace.

However, the officials continue to refuse to say how many people have actually enrolled in the insurance markets. And without enrollment figures, it’s unclear whether the program is on track to reach the 7 million people projected by the Congressional Budget Office to gain coverage during the six-month signup period.

The first three weeks of signups have been marred by a cascade of computer problems, which the administration says it is working around the clock to correct. The rough rollout has been a black eye for Obama, who invested significant time and political capital in getting the law passed during his first term.

The officials said technology experts from inside and outside the government are being brought in to work on the glitches, though they did not say how many workers were being added.

Officials did say staffing has been increased at call centers by about 50 percent. As problems persist on the federally run website, the administration is encouraging more people to sign up for insurance over the phone.

The officials would not discuss the health insurance rollout by name and were granted anonymity.

Despite the widespread problems, the White House has yet to fully explain what went wrong with the online system consumers were supposed to use to sign up for coverage.

Administration officials initially blamed a high volume of interest from ordinary Americans for the frozen screens that many people encountered. Since then, they have also acknowledged problems with software and some elements of the system’s design.

Interest in the insurance markets appears to continue to be high. Officials said about 19 million people have visited HealthCare.gov as of Friday night.

Of the 476,000 applications that have been started, just over half have been from the 36 states where the federal government is taking the lead in running the markets. The rest of the applications have come from the 14 states running their own markets, along with Washington, D.C.

Americans seeking health coverage through the Affordable Care Act must fill out applications before selecting a specific plan. The forms require personal information, including income figures that are used to calculate any subsidies the applicant may qualify for. More than one person can be included on an application.

The White House says it plans to release the first enrollment totals from both the federal and state-run markets in mid-November.

Obama will directly address the technical problems with the health care websites this morning during an event in the Rose Garden, according to the White House. Officials said the president finds the glitches unacceptable and will outline for the public steps the administration is taking to address the troubles.

Obama will be joined during the event by people who have already enrolled in insurance programs through the new exchanges. The administration has not said how many people have enrolled during the first three weeks of signups.

The Health and Human Services Department reported Sunday that it “is bringing in some of the best and brightest from both inside and outside government to .... help improve HealthCare.gov. We’re also putting in place tools and processes to aggressively monitor and identify parts of HealthCare.gov where individuals are encountering errors or having difficulty using the site, so we can prioritize and fix them.”  

An internal memo obtained by The Associated Press showed that the administration projected nearly a half million people would enroll for the insurance markets during the first month.

Officials say they expect enrollments to be heavier toward the end of the six-month signup window.

Problems with the rollout were largely overshadowed by Republican efforts to force changes to the health care law in exchange for funding the government. That effort failed and the government reopened last week with “Obamacare” intact.

Some Republicans are now calling for the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The White House says it has complete confidence in her. House Republicans have scheduled a hearing next week to look into the rollout problems.

White House allies say they’re confident the problems are being addressed.

“There’s no question the marketplace website needs some improvement,” said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., one of the architects of the law. “The administration needs to fix the computer bugs and I’m confident that they’re working around the clock to fix the problems.”

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • U.N. school in Gaza in cross-fire; 15 killed

    A U.N. school in Gaza crowded with hundreds of Palestinians seeking refuge from fierce fighting came under fire Thursday, killing at least 15 civilians and leaving a sad tableau of blood-spattered pillows, blankets and children’s clothing scattered in the courtyard.

    July 25, 2014

  • Jet with 116 on board crashes in Mali

    An Air Algerie jetliner carrying 116 people crashed Thursday in a rainstorm over restive Mali, and its wreckage was found near the border of neighboring Burkina Faso — the third major international aviation disaster in a week.

    July 25, 2014

  • Two more planes with Ukraine bodies arrive in Netherlands

    Two more military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster arrived in the Netherlands on Thursday, while Australian and Dutch diplomats joined to promote a plan for a U.N. team to secure the crash site which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

    July 25, 2014

  • Obama demands ‘economic patriotism’

    Staking out a populist stand ahead of the midterm elections, President Barack Obama on Thursday demanded “economic patriotism” from U.S. corporations that use legal means to avoid U.S. taxes through overseas mergers.
    “I don’t care if it’s legal,” Obama declared. “It’s wrong.”

    July 24, 2014

  • Airline disasters come in a cluster

    Nearly 300 passengers perish when their plane is shot out of the sky. Airlines suspend flights to Israel’s largest airport after rocket attacks. Two airliners crash during storms. Aviation has suffered one of its worst weeks in memory, a cluster of disasters spanning three continents.

    July 24, 2014

  • Opponents: Evidence against lethal injection

    The nation’s third botched execution in six months offers more evidence for the courts that lethal injection carries too many risks and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, death-row lawyers and other opponents said Thursday.

    July 24, 2014

  • Ancient Animal Dig.jpg Wyoming cave with fossil secrets to be excavated

    For the first time in three decades, scientists are about to revisit one of North America’s most remarkable troves of ancient fossils: the bones of tens of thousands of animals piled at least 30 feet deep at the bottom of a sinkhole-type cave.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bodies of Malaysian jet victims solemnly returned to Dutch soil

    Victims of the Malaysian jetliner shot down over Ukraine returned at last Wednesday to Dutch soil in 40 wooden coffins, solemnly and gently carried to 40 identical hearses, flags at half-staff flapping in the wind.

    July 24, 2014

  • 48 dead in Taiwan plane crash

    Family members of victims of a plane crash were flying to the small Taiwanese island on Thursday where the plane had unsuccessfully attempted to land in stormy weather, killing 48. There were 10 survivors, and authorities were searching for one person who might have been in a wrecked house on the ground.

    July 24, 2014

  • Agents get subsidized ‘Obamacare’ using fake IDs

    Undercover investigators using fake identities were able to secure taxpayer-subsidized health insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care law, congressional investigators said Wednesday.
    The weak link seemed to be call centers that handled applications for frazzled consumers unable to get through online.

    July 24, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads