October 21, 2013

Health-care site problems ‘are being fixed,’ Obama says

The White House also appears to open the door to the possibility that people facing website problems might be exempted from the penalty for remaining uninsured after March 31.

By Scott Wilson
The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

Congressional Republicans have called for the firing of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over the enrollment problems. Several have demanded that Sebelius testify before Congress this week on the law’s implementation, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

The agency’s spokeswoman said Monday that Sebelius would not testify at a Thursday hearing because she would be out of town.

In a statement issued Monday after Obama’s address, Boehner said that “Americans didn’t get any answers from the president today, but the House’s oversight of this failure is just beginning.”

Sebelius, Boehner said, “must change her mind and appear at this week’s hearing in the House. With more than one trillion taxpayer dollars being spent on a completely defective program, Congress is going to get to the bottom of this debacle.”

The Department of Health and Human Services announced Sunday that 19 million people had visited HealthCare.gov since the beginning of the month, although the administration has yet to release figures on how many have signed up for health insurance through the exchange.

On another level, the problems confronting Obama’s signature piece of domestic legislation undermine the broader argument he has made throughout his presidency, that government is capable of working effectively to improve lives. He has been receiving daily briefings on the implementation process, which will be a key part of his domestic legacy.

“No one is madder about the website than I am, which means it’s going to get fixed,” Obama said to applause.

He reiterated that the Affordable Care Act should not be perceived solely as a website, although easily enrolling the uninsured is a central element of the law. He noted other new benefits from the law: that people younger than 26 can remain on their parents’ health-care plan; that mammograms and birth control are free through employer plans; and that premiums are declining in some places for those already insured.

“You may not have noticed them, but you’ve got them,” Obama said. “They are not going anywhere. And they don’t rely on a website.”

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