President Barack Obama sought to reassure Americans in his weekly address released Saturday morning, Oct. 26, 2013 about his new health care law, the Affordable Care Act. This past week the insurance exchange website HealthCare.gov referred to as the Marketplace has been in the spotlight over major glitches. The President tried to urge the public to still sign up for insurance on the site, despite the technical difficulties, a message he has been making all week. While Republicans used the problems with the new marketplace site to their advantage; calling for a delay for the individual mandate in their weekly address.
Just a day after the President's reassurance the HealthCare.gov website went black for a couple of hours on Sunday, Oct 27, 2013 due to problems with its data hub. The continual problems are proving Republicans right about the new law, and causing Democrats to question their own unwavering support.
Republicans also spent their appearances on the Sunday news shows disparaging Obamacare and the website. Appearing on Fox, ABC and NBC, Republican Representatives, Senators and Governors had one message; the problems will persist and grow. As Sen. John Barrasso, R-WY said on ABC's "This Week," "The website was supposed to be the easy part of this. This is just the tip of the iceberg of problems, with bigger problems to come."All part of the Republicans' immediate plans to get the individual mandate delayed, helping their cause is growing Democratic support for a delay.
President Obama acknowledged the technical difficulties the website is experiencing in his weekly address entitled "Enrolling in the Affordable Care Act Marketplace." Obama explained; "Ultimately, the easiest way to buy insurance in this Marketplace will be a new website, HealthCare.gov. But as you may have heard, the site isn't working the way it's supposed to yet. That's frustrating for all of us who have worked so hard to make sure everyone who needs it gets health care. And it's especially frustrating for the Americans who've been trying to get covered.
The President however, reassured the public that the glitches are close to being resolved; "And that's why, in the coming weeks, we are going to get it working as smoothly as it's supposed to. We've got people working overtime, 24/7, to boost capacity and address these problems, every single day." Obama also described the other two main methods to sign up for insurance; on the phone and in-person.
Despite the problem associated with the Marketplace, the President still tried to sound triumphant, stating; "The site has been visited more than 20 million times so far. Nearly 700,000 people have applied for coverage already. That proves just how much demand there is for these new quality, affordable health care choices." And at the end of his address after listing the other benefits the law provides, Obama declared; "That's all part of this law, and it's here to stay." A remark clearly aimed at Republicans, although the President is losing Democratic support because of all the problems.
The President acknowledged the campaign salesman type methods he is using to sell the law, which are being ridiculed by Republicans; "Some people have poked fun at me this week for sounding like an insurance salesman. And that's okay." Continuing Obama stated he remained committed to the law no matter the problems; "I'd still be out there championing this law even if the website were perfect. I'll never stop fighting to help more hardworking Americans know the economic security of health care. That's something we should all want."
Never one to give up an opportunity to chastise the Republicans, even though this issue is not at all their fault, the President criticized; "That's why it's also 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."
In conclusion, President Obama minimized the problems, stating; "We did not fight so hard for this reform for so many years just to build a website…. We did it to cement the principle that in this country, the security of health care is not a privilege for a fortunate few, but a right for every one of us to enjoy. We have already delivered on part of that promise, and we will not rest until the work is done."
Meanwhile, the Republicans have been enjoying see the mess on one of the main portions of the health care law, the exchange website, and devoted their weekly address to pointing out the problems relating to the President's healthcare law. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-MI, who is heading the hearings into the healthcare law's website, was chosen to deliver the weekly address. Upton repeated many of the remarks he made during the hearings held on Thursday, Oct. 24 in his address.
Upton started his address listing the major problems plaguing Obama's landmark law; "Over the last year, we have become all too familiar with the troubled rollout of the law with its broken promises, missed deadlines, delays, special waivers, and now website crashes." Repeating a well remembered phrase from the hearing, Upton recounted; "At a time when we can do everything from ordering a pizza, flowers, or airline tickets, or banking and paying bills, they expect the same reliable service from healthcare.gov - and it's still not ready for primetime."
Rep. Upton updated the American public in his address about the progress in the hearings, recounting that already representatives from four of the firms contracted to build the website have testified, while stating that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will testify on Wednesday, Oct. 30. He mentioned that in past hearings the administration had given false assurance to the committee that the Marketplace would be ready for its launch date without problems; "Over the months leading up to the October 1 launch, top administration officials and lead contractors appeared before this committee, looked us in the eye, and assured us repeatedly that everything was 'on track.' Except that it wasn't, as we now know all too well. "
Rep. Upton spent much of his address hammering in about the unreliability of the health care website and possible insurance policies bought through it, and the potential ramification from the technical difficulties. Upton explained; "The broken healthcare.gov website has captured the nation's attention, but this is more than a website problem. We are also concerned about what happens next." The committee chair then indicated the possible ways the glitches could affect future aspects down the road, including, "provider payment glitches," patients "told they aren't in the system." Continuing Upton added; "And is the personal information Americans provide as part of the enrollment process safe from cyber hackers and identity theft."
Speaking of the individual mandate, Upton asked "How can the administration punish innocent Americans by forcing them to buy a product many cannot afford, from a system that does not work?" He went on discussing the administration's false promises relating to law, including allowing satisfied Americans to keep their present coverage and premium rates prices, which now "are going higher - for some, as much as 400 percent higher. "
Reaching his punch line, Upton emphasized the only solution to all these problems was to heed to the calls of both Republicans and now some Democrats to delay the individual mandate; "In the past few days, the bipartisan chorus has been growing to delay the individual mandate, to delay the penalty that Americans would face for being unable to purchase insurance through this broken system…. The business mandate was delayed, and it's only fair that individuals and families receive the same treatment."
The Obama administration has been downplaying the technical problems associated with the signing up process on the new health care website and Marketplace, HealthCare.gov. The Marketplace is riddled with error messages, and is turning millions of Americans visiting away, and preventing others from completing the insurance sign up process. CEOs from Insurance companies met at the White House on Wednesday, Oct. 23, also revealed that the forms called 834s, that have been sent in through the website are filled with data errors.
The HealthCare.gov website is the main marketplace for 36 states; the remaining states have their websites developed. The website was supposed to be a portal to allow Americans to shop for health insurance that fits with the new law. There are two major technical problems with the site; it cannot withstand the traffic volume and its "platform design." The problems have been attributed to delays in development during the 2012 Presidential campaign, and last minute testing, which only began two weeks before the site was to go live on Oct. 1, 2013.
Americans without insurance now have until March 31, 2014 to sign up for health insurance before the individual mandate takes effect imposing a tax penalty on Americans, who do not have insurance or do not have insurance that meets the standards of the new law. The mandate will be $95 or "up to one percent of income" for 2014, $325 if one does not insurance by 2015, and the penalty skyrockets to $695 for Americans who do not have insurance by 2016.
President Obama has now given Republicans fuel to fight healthcare law, and a perfect reason to demand the delay of the individual mandate. Republicans are also now having the support of some Democrats. The united front Obama had with Democrats over his sweeping health care law is breaking down. Unless the website problems are fixed and do not keep on with continuing new problems, the President will have to delay the individual mandate, and concede that the Republicans were right with the foresight that the implementation of such a law would be disastrous and impossible.