President Barack Obama on Wednesday said there is “no excuse” for the problems with the health care website and that he will “take full responsibility for making sure it gets fixed ASAP.”
“There's no denying it. Right now, the website is too slow, too many people have gotten stuck. And I am not happy about it…There's no excuse for it. And I take full responsibility for making sure it gets fixed ASAP,” Obama said.
The president delivered a speech in Boston’s Faneuil Hall, where in 2006 then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney signed into law the commonwealth’s universal health insurance program. The law, he said, served as a blueprint for the Affordable Care Act, and overcame a troubled rollout to result in nearly universal healthcare coverage in the Bay State.
“Health care reform in this state was a success, that doesn’t mean it worked right away. There were problems that needed to be solved," Obama said.
The president highlighted how only about 100 people signed up during the first month of open enrollment in Massachusetts. But that figure ultimately rose, with 36,000 people signing up by the end of the one-year open enrollment.
“It’s because you guys had a proven model that we built the Affordable Care Act on this template of proven bipartisan success. You're law was the model for the nation’s law," Obama said.
The president also addressed recent reports that Americans are losing their health plans despite assurances that they could keep them if they wanted to.
Obama said a main goal of the ACA was not only to help the uninsured, but also the under-insured, meaning there would be minimum requirements that all plans must include. Since the law passed, he said, some Americans with plans that do not meet the new minimum requirements have gotten letters informing them that their plans would be cancelled.
"If you are getting one of these letters, just shop around in the new marketplace. That's what it's for. Because of the tax credits we’re offering, and the competition between insurers, most people are going to get better, comprehensive health care plans for the same price or even cheaper than projected. You are going to get a better deal," Obama said.
But those involved in the formation of the Massachusetts plan have acknowledged that the president’s health care law faces unique challenges not applicable to the 2006 law. For one, the sheer size and scale of a nationwide program.
"The technical challenge we had in Massachusetts was minuscule compared to building the federally-facilitated marketplace, or a lot of the state ones, frankly,” Jon Kingsdale, founder of Massachusetts Health Connector, said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Obama's top health official, Kathleen Sebelius, apologized during a congressional hearing for the flawed launch of Healthcare.gov, the glitch-riddled online portal for health insurance registration.
Another giant difference between the two laws is the especially contentious political climate in Washington. While Republicans in Congress shut down the government in an effort to defund Obamacare, the Massachusetts law had bipartisan support.
"There are others that are so locked into the politics of this thing that they won't lift a finger to help their own people. And that's leaving millions of Americans uninsured unnecessarily," Obama said. "That's a shame, because if they put as much energy into making this law work as they do in attacking the law, Americans would be better off."
Romney, who made repealing and replacing the ACA one of the main tenants of his 2012 presidential campaign, issued a statement maintaining that “a single state should not be grafted onto the entire country.”
If Obama has learned from the Massachusetts model, Romney said, “the installation of the program would not have been a frustrating embarrassment.”
Throughout his speech, Obama also competed with hecklers shouting at him to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline and address climate change.
"This the wrong rally, we had the climate change rally back in the summer," the president told the group.
NBC’s Ali Weinberg contributed reporting.
First published October 30 2013, 1:40 PM