Since their launch at the beginning of the month, the new health insurance marketplaces rolled out under the Affordable Care Act have faced mounting criticism for widespread technical problems. At a press conference Monday, President Barack Obama finally weighed in on the issue, saying that there’s “no excuse” for the issues and that the government is working around the clock to iron them out.
“There’s no sugar-coating it. The website has been too slow [and] people have been getting stuck during the application process,” he said. “Nobody’s madder than me that the website isn’t working as well as it should, which means it’s going to get fixed.”
He didn’t provide details on what exactly the government is doing to fix the problems and he didn’t elaborate on the nature of the technical challenges. But Obama said the government is working with “experts from top private sector companies” and has people working 24/7 to boost capacity and improve operability.
In a blog post Sunday, the Department of Human Services similarly said a “tech surge” was in the works to address problems with the health insurance websites. In addition to working with “the best and the brightest” inside and outside of government, it said it’s adding new tools to monitor and identify problem areas so it can better prioritize and address them.
During his speech, Obama emphasized that while the website isn’t working properly, the insurance products offered through the marketplaces are solid and that demand has been strong. Since the HealthCare.gov launched on Oct. 1, he said the site has received 20 million visits and HHS said nearly half a million applications for coverage have been submitted. Obama also pointed out that the country is still only three weeks into a six-month-long enrollment period for the new insurance plans.
While Obama acknowledged the failures of the new website, he still attempted to downplay them, repeatedly calling them “kinks.” But in the weeks since the launch of the marketplaces, some IT experts have said the problems with the site likely have to do with the program’s underlying architecture and may ultimately need a bigger overhaul.