Obama says there's 'No excuse' for health care signup problems

Barack Obama
Associated Press

President Barack Obama gestures while speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on Monday about the initial rollout of the health care overhaul. Obama acknowledged that the widespread problems with his health care law's rollout are unacceptable, as the administration scrambles to fix the cascade of computer issues. 

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Monday said there was "no excuse" for the cascade of computer problems that have marred the rollout of a key element in his health care law, but declared he was confident the administration would be able to fix the issues.

Affordable Care Act 101

"There's no sugarcoating it," Obama said. "Nobody is more frustrated than I am."

The president said his administration was doing "everything we can possibly do" to get the federally run websites where people are supposed to apply for insurance up and running. That includes bringing in additional technology experts from inside and outside the government to work on the issues.

People have until March 31 to sign up for coverage. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office had projected that about 7 million people would gain coverage through the exchanges during the first year.

The president on Monday guaranteed that everyone who wants to get insurance through the new health care exchanges will be able to, even if they have to enroll over the phone or fill out a paper application.

Obama's event in the White House Rose Garden had the feeling of a health care pep rally, with guests in the Rose Garden applauding as Obama ticked through what the White House sees as benefits of the law. The president was introduced by a woman who had successfully managed to sign up for health insurance through the marketplaces in her home state of Delaware.

The rollout failures have been deeply embarrassing for the White House. The issues have called into question whether the administration is capable of implementing the complex policy and why senior White House officials — including the president — appear to have been unaware of the scope of the problems when the exchange sites opened on Oct. 1.

Obama, in his most extensive remarks about the health care problems, insisted Monday that the health care law is about more than just a website.

"The essence of the law, the health insurance that's available to people, is working just fine," he said during his 25-minute remarks.

The White House says more than 19 million people have visited HealthCare.gov since the site went live on Oct. 1. Officials also say a half million people have applied for insurance on the federal- and state-run websites.

Administration officials initially blamed a high volume of interest for the frozen computer screens that many people encountered when they first logged on to the website. Since then, they have also acknowledged issues with software and some elements of the system's design.

However, the White House has yet to fully detail exactly what went wrong with the online system consumers were supposed to use to sign up for coverage. And Obama on Monday did not explain how the problems in detail or why they were not fixed before sign-ups opened to the public.

Officials say that at this point they are not considering extending the enrollment window beyond March 31. They also say they are not considering taking the website down for an extended period of time to address the problem but instead will do that maintenance during low-traffic overnight hours.

The president did acknowledge that the failures would provide new fodder for opponents of the law, often referred to as "Obamacare." With the website not working as intended, "that makes a lot of supporters nervous," he said.

But he said, "it's time for folks to stop rooting for its failure."

In an ironic twist, the troubles with the health care rollout were overshadowed at first by Republican efforts to delay or defund the law in exchange for reopening the government during the 16-day shutdown. The bill that eventually reopened the government included no substantive changes to the health care law.

With the shutdown over, GOP lawmakers have been ramping up their criticism of the health care law's troubles.

"An overhauled website isn't going to fix the underlying fact that Obamacare is not a workable law," Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., said. "I urge the president and my colleagues across the aisle to recognize the harm being done and set aside their pride to stop the most damaging provisions of the law, or better yet, to repeal and replace it."

Associated Press writer Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.

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Bob White's picture

You would think he could have

You would think he could have gotten people that were signed up to stand behind him.

Jason Theriault's picture

This isn't rare

It's fun seeing non-it people becoming experts in server load and troubleshooting.

First off, this isn't rare. Unless your google, situations like this happen all the time. With probably close to 100+ million people trying to look at the exchanges(figure as many lookie-loos as people trying to sign up), unless your google, your servers are going to have issues. And google spends billions with multiple locations and monitoring to achieve that. It's not worth it for Healthcare.gov to have that much horsepower when this is just a spike in traffic.

Just one example of this happening are the Boston Red Sox ticking before they went to a raffle system. Then it was technically a waiting room first come/first served, but the traffic made it that it was a crapshoot if you could purchase tickets.

Another was World of Warcraft when it first came out - people had to wait in a virtual queue to play WoW. There are tons more examples, and I really don't think they could have handled the traffic without spending a ton more money on it. And it's working fine now, so it;s a non issue

But done don't let that stop you from having your fun or trying to distract the American people from the fact that GOP almost ran the government into the ground. Nope, the ACA website had a rough roll out, it must be bad.

I used to have a poster in my

I used to have a poster in my office that dated back to the 1970s. It's a list of the Murphy's Laws of computer, one of which is "It is not until the software is released that the biggest and most harmful bug will be discovered."

There was also the Exteneded Epstien-Heisenberg Theory of Software projects: there are three variables in any project: scope, resources ($), and time. At no time will more than two of those variables be known. ("If at any time all three are known, what you are dealing with is not in this universe") which is also in play here. Because they knew the budget and they knew the timeframe, but they obviously didn't have a clear scope to work with.

It was sure funny watching

It was sure funny watching our President giving out a toll free phone number to buy unaffordable healthcare. After his failure being President he can become the new spokes person for SHAM WOW! The only thing that doesn't really make this funny is how much damage he's done to our nation, with his stupidity.

ERNEST LABBE's picture

I just know

I just know that somehow this problem was created by president Bush.

Bob White's picture

du that's a gimmie

du that's a gimmie

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I had no problem...............

Yesterday afternoon, I went to Heathcare.gov, and got in immediately. Since I do not need insurance I didn't go to far into it, but I was asked all the qualifying questions, who I was buying for, My age group, income level and so forth. I got to the point of actually entering my information before quitting.
The problems a week or so ago were foreseeable. There needs to be the right size system ready to accept that kind of load. The problem was definitely avoidable, but when was the last time anyone has seen a government computer system work the first time, or the fifth time even. The system requirements for that kind of load capacity is nothing more than businesses like ticket-tron has used for years. What kind of response do you think they get when the new "in" band of the day goes on a national tour. I'll tell you what, it's more than a few million. The only thing is they have the capacity to handle those numbers. The Presidents system failed badly, but they'll get it right soon........................

Edward S Phillips 's picture


An incompenent surrounded by incompenents with no value of the Taxpayers money.

 's picture


Kettle? Meet pot.


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