White House admits more problems with 'Obamacare' rollout
By Michael Mathes, AFPWASHINGTON--Furious U.S. lawmakers demanded answers ahead of a Thursday hearing to probe the troubled “Obamacare” website, as the White House acknowledged more problems with its health care rollout.
October 25, 2013, 12:27 am TWN
President Barack Obama is facing a barrage of criticism for failures stemming from this month's debut of Healthcare.gov, through which millions of Americans are expected to buy insurance.
The process has been overwhelmed by technical glitches on the website, which critics have blasted as a US$500 million disaster.
The House of Representatives' Republican leadership — long opposed to the reform — has seized the opportunity to schedule three hostile hearings, including Thursday's panel.
“The rollout of Obamacare is nothing short of a debacle and the American people are now fearful of their health care,” number two House Republican Eric Cantor told reporters.
“What's not helping is a lack of transparency on the part of this administration.”
And the latest response from the White House suggested the problems might be deeper than an expensive web interface.
On Wednesday, 14 health insurance chief executives met with White House officials and under-fire Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss the hiccups.
These, the White House admitted, were not confined to online operations but also to the so-called “834 forms,” which the health care marketplace uses to transmit enrollee data to insurance firms.
“We have worked with the insurers and the 'alpha teams' (of technology experts) to iron out kinks in the both the 834 forms and in direct enrollment,” the White House said.
This behind-the-scenes problem could prove nightmarish if insurance firms get wrongly-coded information for people who sign up for Obamacare.
With many up in arms about the problems, HHS staff briefed top House Democrats about the ways forward — but Republicans were left out.
Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi said there was no talk in the meeting of delaying the law's so-called individual mandate, which compels Americans to have health insurance by Jan. 1 or pay a fine.
But while Pelosi said she had “faith in technology,” she acknowledged the hiccups were “unacceptable.”
“Just fix it,” she said.