Obama defends health law despite chaotic debut (Update)

October 21, 2013 by Stephen Collinson

President Barack Obama said Monday there was "no sugarcoating" the problems clouding the online launch of his health care law, but mounted a firm defense of a system that will help define his legacy.

Obama is struggling to get ahead of a mounting political storm over the rollout of Obamacare websites, which gleeful Republicans are using to argue the system is fatally flawed and will never work.

"There's no sugarcoating it. The website has been too slow, people are getting stuck during the application process," Obama said in a speech in the White House Rose Garden.

"I think it's fair to say that nobody is more frustrated by that than I am."

Obama spent much of his first-term political capital on a system which is the closest America has ever come to universal health care.

And he was adamant that many people are getting insurance for the first time in years and that Obamacare functions well as a whole.

"Let me remind everybody that the Affordable Care Act is not just a website," Obama said.

"It's much more ... 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," he said, describing malfunctions and delays on the Healthcare.gov website as "kinks."

Obama promised that his administration was doing everything it could to fix website glitches, and had called on some of the country's best computing experts to fix it in a tech "surge."

"Precisely because the product is good. I want the cash registers to work. I want the checkout lines to be smooth," he said.

The president read out a free phone line number for people to register with the site, and argued that the website had been visited 20 million times already.

The White House has however refused to give out figures on the number of people who have completed the registration process and bought health care plans in the newly established insurance market places, designed to increase the risk pool of people seeking insurance.

The Department of Health and Human Services has said nearly half a million people have applied for coverage through the website.

During an uncomfortable press briefing after Obama's remarks, his spokesman Jay Carney declined to say whether the president would be forced to delay the requirement for all Americans to get health insurance or pay a fine, due to take effect next year.

Republicans have pounced on the problems with Obamacare's rollout, arguing that it is a disastrous sign of what happens when the government gets involved in the private insurance market.

While the White House highlights cases of people who have been able to buy insurance for the first time and popular aspects of the law, Obama's foes offer stories of those who have seen existing plans cancelled in the disruption in the health care market caused by Obamacare.

"Obamacare is the nation's biggest job killer and stands in the way of our country's economic growth and prosperity," said Ted Cruz, the Republican Senator who campaigned to make a raising of the US government's borrowing authority contingent on defunding Obamacare in a political showdown that ended last week.

"It should be defunded and repealed," Cruz said in a statement.

House of Representatives Republican leader Eric Cantor said that Obamacare's problems were larger than a malfunctioning website and would take more than a "tech surge" to fix.

"The website does serve as stark evidence that the federal government is ill-equipped to centrally manage our nation's health care," Cantor said.

The program, which opened for business on October 1, aims to provide access to medical care for millions of Americans who often are priced out of other health care options.

The federal website serves 36 states, with the 14 other US states managing the system locally with their own websites.

But the websites have struggled with overloads, glitches and crashes, in a big embarrassment for the program and for the president.

Explore further: For Obama, a frustrating health care rollout (Update)

Related Stories

For Obama, a frustrating health care rollout (Update)

October 20, 2013
President Barack Obama is expected Monday to address the problem-plagued rollout of his signature health care legislation, which has suffered an embarrassing start with a cascade of computer problems plaguing online sign-ups ...

Tech glitches add to Obamacare challenges

October 6, 2013
It's not just politics, but technology issues raising questions about the future of Obamacare, the landmark health reform spearheaded by President Barack Obama.

Under fire, 'Obamacare' going live _ with glitches

September 30, 2013
The core part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul takes hold Tuesday, putting the embattled plan to a new test as tens of millions of Americans who don't have insurance can start signing up for coverage.

Core of Obamacare takes effect despite US shutdown

October 1, 2013
The Obama administration rolled out a key component of its landmark health care overhaul Tuesday, moving forward despite a federal government shutdown sparked by Republican efforts to derail the law designed to extend insurance ...

A bumpy first day for new insurance marketplaces

October 2, 2013
For millions of Americans trying to log in, the online insurance marketplaces that are the center of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul began with a stalled website, an error message or a menu that didn't work.

Big step—or stumble—for US health care law Tuesday

September 30, 2013
Millions of uninsured and low-income Americans will sign on to subsidized health coverage beginning Tuesday in a revolutionary system that is still working out technical kinks—and confronting heaps of political pushback.

Recommended for you

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.