Flanked by people who he said have benefitted from the Affordable Care Act so far, President Barack Obama acknowledged on Monday the problems and glitches that have plagued the law’s rollout.
“There’s no sugar-coating it,” Obama said at an event in the Rose Garden of the White House, referring to the disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov, the federal website where consumers have had anything but a smooth time signing up for health insurance.
“No one is more frustrated than I am.”
While acknowledging the problems with the website, Obama hailed the parts of the law that have already helped the 13 people that joined him onstage in the Rose Garden. At times he defiantly said that the website is “gonna get fixed.” He didn’t provide many specifics on that point, other than noting that people will be working overtime to fix it and that the White House will bring in outside experts — a “tech surge,” as he said.
He used a slew of metaphors in an attempt to prove his points, saying that he “wants the cash registers to work” — but that health insurance will ultimately be available to everyone who needs it, unlike the “latest PlayStation or flat-screen TVs.”
And he took the usual jabs at Republicans who he complained were trying to dismantle the law, like in the episode of the recent 16-day federal government shutdown. He even said that in some cases, it’s “exceeding expectations” — a comment that drew scrutiny.
“The point is the essence of the law, the health insurance that’s available to people, is working just fine. In some cases, actually, it’s exceeding expectations. The prices are lower than we expected. The choice is greater than we expected,” Obama said.
“But the problem has been that the website that’s supposed to make it easy to apply for and purchase the insurance is not working the way it should for everybody. … Precisely because the product is good, I want the cash registers to work, I want the checkout lines to be smooth, so I want people to be able to get this great product. And there’s no excuse for the problems. And these problems are getting fixed.”
Obama’s speech drew immediate criticism from both the left and right flanks. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein said the speech was almost identical to one he could have given if the launch’s rollout had gone smoothly.
In a statement, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said that the law’s problems went beyond a simple “website failure.”
“Obamacare’s problem is larger than a website failure, and it will take more than a ‘tech surge’ to fix it. The website does serve as stark evidence that the federal government is ill-equipped to centrally manage our nation’s health care,” Cantor said.
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