Republicans battered by the shutdown debacle are quickly gearing up to bash Obamacare by touting troubles with the rollout, and the President on Monday will address problems with the health exchange system.
Source: Bill Hammond In Albany AND Dan Friedman In Washington / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
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President Barack Obama on Monday ‘will directly address the technical problems with HealthCare.gov — troubles that he and his team find unacceptable — and discuss the actions he has pushed for to make it easier for consumers to comparison shop and enroll for insurance while work continues around the clock to improve the website,’ a Whited House official said.
President Obama will speak Monday to acknowledge a new potential political disaster — the glitch-laden federal health care exchanges.
Administration officials have no time to waste as they race to find a prescription to heal the sickly exchanges while Republicans, battered by the government shutdown debacle, quickly gear up to tout troubles with the Obamacare rollout.
“The President will directly address the technical problems with HealthCare.gov — troubles that he and his team find unacceptable,” a White House official said.
The remarks are part of an administration push to inject a new urgency into efforts to fix the site, which made its debut on Oct. 1 — the day the government was shut down as the Republicans sought to defund the 2010 law.
The Health and Human Services Department, which oversees HealthCare.gov, announced over the weekend that it has hired experts from the private sector and other federal agencies to rewrite flawed computer code that has hampered the site and left most users unable to sign up for health insurance plans available under Obamacare.
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U.S. Department of Health and Human Service Kathleen Sebelius is under fire for problems with federal health care exchanges.
With the new steps, the administration appeared to have decided to own up to the technical woes that it had initially downplayed.
“There’s no one more frustrated than the President at the difficulty in the website,” Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
In New York, one of only 16 states that has its own exchange, not one person had succeeded in using the site to enroll in a plan as of Friday.
Donna Frescatore, director of the New York State of Health marketplace, said Friday that 134,000 people had registered and shopped on the state’s online health care site since its Oct. 1 launch, and thousands signed up to enroll in a plan.
The Affordable Care Act — or Obamacare — signup page on the HealthCare.gov website.
But the state has repeatedly delayed electronically transmitting those users’ data to insurers offering health plans.
The department, which held off in order to verify the accuracy of the information users submitted, said it would transfer the first batch of enrollees’ data — which includes thousands of transactions — as early as Friday night.
Meanwhile, insurers were worried that the state website had incorrect information on details of plans that are available.
“We have heard from some plans that some of the information they thought was going to be there isn’t showing up,” said Leslie Moran, a spokeswoman for the New York Health Plan Association.
In New York, one of only 16 states that has its own health care exchange, not one person had succeeded in using the website to enroll in any plan as of Friday.
In Washington, the Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged in a blog post Sunday afternoon that the system has been beset with woes. “Unfortunately, the experience on HealthCare.gov has been frustrating for many Americans,” the department said in an understatement.
Republicans — distracted by the shutdown battle — initially missed a chance to make political hay over the technical meltdown.
That’s a political misstep the party is hustling to correct.
“While shutdown took up front pages for two weeks and Obamacare was not highlighted as much as it would have been otherwise, the flaws in this unpopular law will take center stage now,” a Senate Republican aide said Friday.
“The law is a disaster,” the aide added. “People are going to notice it.”
The White House’s website for health care coverage.
“Democrats will be forced to answer tough questions that they may have gotten away with not answering before,” the aide said.
Republicans demanded Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testify on problems with HealthCare.gov before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday.
They hope to press on her on why she claimed in July that the project was on track, when agency documents show that alarm was growing among officials involved that it was far behind schedule.
The agency on Friday told the panel that the recent end of the shutdown meant Sebelius had insufficient notice to attend the hearing.
Sebelius’ department also faces fire for taking too long to issue specifications to contractors working on software for the website and for failing to hire a contractor to manage the many companies working on parts of the site.
Another top administration official, Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell, would not guarantee on Friday that problems with the site will be fixed by Dec. 14.
That’s the deadline for buying policies that kick in next year, when Americans who lack health insurance will start to face fines under Obamacare’s individual mandate.
“The administration has put together a team and is deeply focused on the issues of how do we fix those problems,” Burwell said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.