U.S. President Barack Obama says he is frustrated by technical problems with his administration’s new online health insurance marketplace. But, he says the kinks — or troubles — in the system will “get fixed” and the law that created it is a good deal for the American people.
In a speech at the White House Rose Garden on Monday, Obama said “nobody is madder” than him that the HealthCare.Gov site has not worked properly since it opened on October 1.
The website is a key element of the president’s 2010 Affordable Care Act, which has also become known as Obamacare and was designed to make it easier for Americans to obtain private health insurance.
Internet users have been unable to create accounts, received confusing error messages and pages that loaded slowly or failed to respond.
The president said his administration has recruited some of America’s best private sector technology experts to get the website working faster and better.
Obama said the Affordable Care Act is more than “just a website.” He said he fought for it, despite Republican opposition, to ensure that millions of uninsured Americans can get the same “quality” and “affordable” health care as others.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed Obama’s remarks in a Twitter post, saying Obamacare “costs too much and is not working the way they promised.”
McConnell also reiterated Republican calls for the president to delay what he called “this rushed effort.”
Obama was joined in the Rose Garden by Americans who have already applied for health insurance through the site or are planning to do so.
He said he recognizes that Republicans have made blocking Obamacare “their signature idea.” He said he is willing to work with anyone on ideas to make the law work better, but called for opponents to, as he put it, “stop rooting for its failure.”
Demands by congressional Republicans to defund or delay Obamacare contributed to a partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government earlier this month.
The Republicans demanded the changes to the healthcare law as a condition for funding government operations beyond October 1, but Mr. Obama and his allies in the Democratic-led Senate refused, leading to the 16-day partial shutdown.
It ended with a bipartisan deal to reopen the government and avoid a U.S. debt default. The agreement did not include major changes to Obamacare.
The Health and Human Services Department, which administers HealthCare.Gov, said Sunday its experts are updating the site with new code that includes bug fixes and conducting regular tests to improve the user experience.
The Obama administration initially blamed the glitches on a high volume of people trying to access the site. It has since acknowledged broader problems with the system, while insisting public demand for the product is strong.
Obama said more than half a million applications for health insurance have been received through Healthcare.gov since October 1. Users must file applications before they can enroll in a plan.
He also said “thousands” have enrolled. U.S. media say the administration has a goal of enrolling seven million Americans by March 31. Individuals who are not insured are mandated to sign up for a plan by that date or face a penalty.
Critics say that if not enough young, healthy people join the health plans, premiums may rise for those who do enroll.