US President Barack Obama greets customers inside Junior's Restaurant next to Democratic Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio in Brooklyn.
WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama promised yesterday that his troubled healthcare website was just weeks away from a cure as he struggled to convince Americans he is on top of what has become a self-inflicted wound to his signature first-term achievement.
His administration unveiled a plan on Friday to make Obamacare insurance marketplaces on healthcare.gov — a website riddled with error messages, long delays and bugs — work better by the end of November.
It was the end to an embarrassing week where Obama discovered he had overshot on an October 1. promise of a website that would make shopping for health insurance as easy as buying “a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon.”
“As you may have heard, the site isn’t working the way it’s supposed to yet,” Obama said in his weekly address yesterday — an understatement after days of reports of people being shut out of the system.
“In the coming weeks, we are going to get it working as smoothly as it’s supposed to,” he added. Obama had stood firm against Republican attempts to defund or delay the healthcare law, known popularly as Obamacare - efforts that led to a 16-day government shutdown this month.
He and his top officials had warned publicly before October 1 that there could be “glitches,” but the White House has been scrambling to control the damage from a rollout that was far worse than expected.
The depth of the design flaws has raised questions about why the Obama administration was so insistent on starting the enrollments on October 1 when the system was clearly not ready — and laid bare the president’s mistake in raising expectations about how good the website was going to be.
“Either they made assumptions that were too optimistic and were caught off guard, or they knew that the difficulties would be greater than the public understood, but chose not to say so,” said Bill Galston, a Brookings Institution expert who was a domestic policy adviser to Democratic President Bill Clinton.
“It may be some of both.”
Obama adviser Jeffrey Zients, appointed on Tuesday to figure out how to manage the complicated fixes for the website, was an unannounced participant on a conference call with health reporters on Friday afternoon.
Zients gave a deadline, although he cautioned there was a lot of work to do.
Borrowing from the lexicon of homebuilders, Zients said he had hired a “general contractor” to manage the many contractors on the project, and developed a “punch list” of dozens of problems to address. Reuters