The Edmond Sun

October 21, 2013

Obama promises to fix health care portal

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — President Barack Obama tried to do damage control Monday to his signature piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. People have been getting stuck during the application process, he said.

The website healthcare.gov is for the 15 million Americans without insurance to sign up for a health care plan. However, glitches in accessing the information on the website have proved to be unacceptable, Obama said.

“Nobody’s more mad about it than me that the website isn’t working as well as it should, which means it’s going to get fixed,” Obama said

About 7 million people are expected to enroll in the plan by April 1, according to the Congressional Budget Office. So far, 500,000 people have submitted applications successfully, said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

“The essence of the law, the health insurance that’s available to people, is working just fine,” Obama said. “In some cases, actually, it’s exceeding expectations. The prices are lower than expected, and the choice is greater than we expected. But the problem has been that the website that’s supposed to make it easy to apply for and purchase the insurance is not working the way it should for everybody. There’s no sugarcoating it. The website has been too slow. People are getting stuck during the application process.”

Most Americans who do not currently have insurance coverage will be required to purchase health care insurance beginning Jan. 1, according to mandates set forth by the Affordable Care Act. There will be a 90-day waiting period to obtain a private health insurance plan or face a tax penalty, the law states.

More than 650,000 Oklahomans are currently without health care insurance, according to the state. Sixty-five percent of those uninsured residents qualify for a health care subsidy.

Carney said there are also other avenues discussed on the website. Visit healthcare.gov to learn about the AFC and discuss options for insurance plans. Visit this page and select your state to get started.

Other methods for obtaining insurance coverage include:

• Apply by phone. Call 1-800-318-2596 to apply for a health insurance plan and enroll over the phone. (TTY: 1-855-889-4325)

• Apply in person. Visit a trained counselor in your community to get information, apply and enroll in person.

• Apply by mail. Complete a paper application and mail it in.

Glitches and kinks with the system are being addressed. More than 20 million people have visited healthcare.gov in spite of those glitches, Carney said.

“That demonstrates a sustained interest in the array of affordable health care options that haven’t had those options available to them in the past,” Carney said.

Health and Human Services have identified the problems with the website and have brought in outside experts to establish effective tools and processes to fix the glitches, Carney said. But Carney resisted the question of extending open enrollment.

“I’m not sure how you can call a three-week period a lost month when there have been hundreds of thousand of people who have submitted applications,” he said.