The Obamacare website‘s problems are getting most of the headlines and complaints, but the president’s health care program has far more issues than just a few website glitches, Rep. Fred Upton says.
“The broken healthcare.gov website has captured the nation’s attention, but this is more than a website problem,” the Michigan Republican, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in Saturday’s GOP address. “We are also concerned about what happens next.”
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President Barack Obama, in his own weekly address, acknowledged the problems with the website, saying that there are people working “overtime” to fix its glitches., which have made it difficult for customers to sign on, get accurate costs for their new insurance policies and completing enrollment before the program’s Jan. 1 deadline.
Obama said the site’s problems are “frustrating for all of us who have worked so hard to make sure everyone who needs it gets health care.”
Upton, though, said the site’s issues are just part of the “troubled rollout of the law with its broken promises, missed deadlines, delays, special waivers, and now website crashes.”
And even though hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent, Upton complained, the website still does not work for most people.
“At a time when we can do everything from ordering a pizza, flowers, or airline tickets, or banking and paying bills, [people] expect the same reliable service from healthcare.gov – and it’s still not ready for primetime,” said Upton.
Further, in the months leading up to the site’s Oct. 1 launch, the administration and the website’s contractors appeared before Upton’s committee, “looked us in the eye, and assured us repeatedly that everything was ‘on track,’ except that it wasn’t.”
Upton said the site’s glitches are making Americans wonder what will happen next.
“Will enrollment glitches become provider payment glitches?” he asked. “Will patients show up at their doctor’s office or hospital only to be told they aren’t in the system? And is the personal information Americans provide as part of the enrollment process safe from cyber hackers and identity theft?”
Upton also wondered how the administration can punish people by forcing them to buy a product they can’t afford from a system that doesn’t work. Further, he said, “millions of Americans are receiving unwelcome notices that their [insurance] plans are being terminated,” which is not what the health reform law promised.
Upton cheered a bipartisan call for the individual healthcare mandate to be delayed so that Americans won’t be punished for not being able to buy insurance through the broken system.
“The business mandate was delayed, and it’s only fair that individuals and families receive the same treatment,” said Upton. “Likewise, we should look for bipartisan solutions to allow Americans to keep their current insurance. After all, that was President Obama’s solemn promise during the health care debate.”
Obama on Saturday said the site has been visited more than 20 million times, and that nearly 700,000 people have applied for coverage, showing the high demand for affordable healthcare.
“And that’s why, in the coming weeks, we are going to get it working as smoothly as it’s supposed to,” Obama said. “We’ve got people working overtime, 24/7, to boost capacity and address these problems, every single day.”
But Obama on Saturday said it was interesting Thursday to see Republicans taking turns bashing the administration while demanding accountability for the website during a House hearing.
“It was interesting to see Republicans in Congress expressing so much concern that people are having trouble buying health insurance through the new website, especially considering they’ve spent the last few years so obsessed with denying those same people access to health insurance that they just shut down the government and threatened default over it,” the president said Saturday.
But he agreed he will work with opponents to improve the law, but “it’s well past the time for folks to stop rooting for its failure.”
And even though people have “poked fun at me this week for sounding like an insurance salesman,” Obama said, “I’d still be out there championing this law even if the website were perfect.”
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By Sandy Fitzgerald