President Obama defended the Affordable Care Act on Monday but said he could not “sugar coat” the technical problems that have plagued the federal government’s health insurance exchange website since its launch Oct. 1.
“The product, the health insurance is good. The prices are good. It is a good deal. People don’t just want it, they’re showing up to buy it. Nobody is madder than me that the website isn’t working as well as it should be, which means that it will get fixed,” Obama said.
The federal health insurance exchange website – www.healthcare.gov - has frustrated millions of Americans anxious to find out what kind of deal they can get on health insurance. More than 20 million people have visited the site, Obama said, and “more than half a million consumers across the country have successfully processed applications for individuals and entire families.”
The federal website serves as the starting point for purchasing health insurance in about half the states – those where governors and lawmakers decided not to launch their own websites, primarily Republican-controlled states. Meanwhile, the states that agreed to set up their own exchanges are signing up tens of thousands of people though by no means are declaring success.
Among them, Kentucky and Washington state recently announced more than 15,000 and 30,000 enrollees, respectively. Oregon reported signing up 56,000 newly eligible people for Medicaid, effectively reducing its uninsured rate by 10 percent.
Maryland, with its own share of website glitches, recently reported only a little more than 1,000 enrollees.
The federal government says it will release national enrollment numbers in mid-November.
Urging consumers to be patient, Obama suggested they sign up for insurance the old-fashioned way – on the phone or in person. The number to call, he said, is 1-800-318-2596. “Wait times have averaged less than one minute,” Obama said. “But that might go up now that I’ve read the number on national television.”
Still, the technical problems are serious. Experts say a complete overhaul is needed. According to Obama, some of the best talent in the country has joined the White House exchange team, which is working around the clock to resolve the problems.