President Barack Obama marked the opening of enrollment in the new health insurance marketplace in a speech in the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday, saying that despite the partial shutdown of the federal government “a big part of the Affordable Care Act is now open for business.”
“Today Americans who have been forced to go without insurance can now visit Healthcare.gov and enroll in affordable new plans that offer quality coverage. That starts today,” he said. The president reminded his audience that uninsured people now have six months to sign up in an insurance plan.
He said the enrollment process will offer an array of insurance plans to select from, “the same way you shop for a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon.” He added, “Most uninsured Americans will find that they can get covered for $100 or less.”
Obama acknowledged that “like every new law, every new product rollout, there are going to be some glitches in the sign-up process along the way that we will fix.”
He said in its first hours “the site has been running more slowly than it normally will.” He attributed the problems to the fact that more than one million people had visited the site before 7 a.m. Tuesday, which he said was five times more users than had ever visited Medicare.gov.
“We’re going to speeding things up in the next few hours to handle all this demand that exceeds anything we had expected,” he promised.
Obama said a few weeks ago Apple had rolled out a new mobile operating system and had found a glitch which the company then fixed. “I don’t remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads -- or threatening to shut down the company if they didn’t. That’s not we do things in America. We don’t actually root for failure.”
Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters said, "We have built a dynamic system and expect to speed up the system in the coming hours. Consumers who need help can also contact the call center, use the live chat function, or go to localhelp.healthcare.gov to find an in-person assistor in their community."
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R- Calif., said in a statement that people trying to sign up for insurance coverage on Healthcare.gov are “being met with crashing websites, missing price information, confusing forms and in some cases, exchanges that had to delay their start date because they aren't ready yet. These 'glitches,' which the President is trying to brush off, reveal how totally unprepared the government is for this launch even with three and a half years to prepare.”
First published October 1 2013, 11:17 AM