Nightly News   |  October 21, 2013

Obama calls in experts to fix

It’s not just customers who struggle with the federal website where people can sign up for the Affordable Care Act’s health care exchanges, insurance companies are also having difficulties. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> good evening. whatever you think about obama care itself, the internet rollout of the new package of health care coverage has been a debacle. the president himself came out today and said no one is madder than he is. he assured americans they are working hard to fix it, but not before a lot of damage has been done. we learned just today that normally mild-mannered folks at consumer reports said, quote, stay away from health care .gov for at least another month if you can. the president gave out a toll-free number. he said there is no excuse for what has happened, but tonight millions of americans are looking for some consumer satisfaction. we begin tonight with nbc's tom costello in our washington newsroom. tom, good evening.

>> reporter: hi, brian. the white house says nearly 20 million people have visited the website so far. roughly 500,000 have is stastarted the application process. the white house isn't saying how many have been able to enroll. there are indications there may not be a quick and easy fix for the website . three weeks into a very rocky rollout of the affordable care act the president today admitted it has not gone well.

>> there is no sugar-coating it. the website is too slow. people have been getting stuck during the application process. i think it is fair to say nobody is more frustrated by that than i am.

>> reporter: the white house isn't saying exactly what's wrong with the website but it has called outside tech experts to deal with the challenge. by one estimate 5 million lines of software code may need to be rewritten. it is not just customers who have struggled with health care .gov. insurance companies report many of the applications they are getting are filled with serious errors. in michigan, priority health is now phoning everyone who signs up on line.

>> we can only do that because there is a low volume right now. certainly if it picks up, that will be difficult to call each and every person.

>> reporter: while 36 states used a federal website , 14 states and d.c. have set up their own. many of those are working well. kentucky reports 45,000 applications started and nearly 16,000 people already signed up for insurance.

>> what makes it work here in kentucky is this streamlined application process where it's just a one-stop shop.

>> reporter: kentucky shoppers can check prices without entering pages of personal data like the federal site requires. 48 companies built the federal site that was to handle six states and now handles five times that many. now the clock is ticking to fix the website .

>> basically, you know, we've got a month or six weeks from today to try to get this fixed. in order for people to have coverage starting january 1 .

>> reporter: with the president today, janice baker, the first in delaware to buy low cost insurance online though it took 11 days of persistence.

>> i'm very happy with it. i'm thrilled. really. i can't imagine i would get such a nice policy out of all of this.

>> don't let problems with the website deter you from signing up or signing your family up.

>> reporter: the president is encouraging people to sign up for insurance by calling the 800 number at health care .gov. if the website is not working properly. he insists millions of uninsured americans can sign up for affordable health care right now. brian?

>> tom costello starting us off in our d.c. newsroom tonight on the president's attempt at