Will someone get fired for Obamacare?

October 14, 2013
Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs (Ron Edmonds/Associated Press)
Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs (Ron Edmonds/Associated Press)

Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs raised an uncomfortable question Monday during an appearance on MSNBC's "Now with Alex Wagner": Is someone going to get fired for the uneven rollout of the Affordable Care Act's Oct. 1 rollout?

"When they get it fixed, I hope they fire some people that were in charge of making sure that this thing was supposed to work," said Gibbs, usually a defender of the Obama administration. “We knew there were going to be glitches, right? But these were glitches that go, quite frankly, way beyond the pale of what should be expected.”

The fact that Gibbs issued such a scathing indictment of the launch of the federal insurance marketplaces in more than 30 states highlights the extent to which the president's allies see the glitches as a political problem that needs to be fixed quickly.

He noted that if the budget battle and partial government shutdown hadn't dominated the news for the past two weeks, the administration would have paid a much steeper price.

But he also raised a legitimate point: Is there someone in the federal government who will be held accountable for the fact that many Americans are still encountering problems as they seek to sign up for insurance on the federal exchange?

Administration officials, who could not be reached immediately for comment, have not identified which officials at Health and Human Services were directly in charge of the new computer enrollment system, or which companies are most involved with fixing it now. Both GCI Federal and Quality Software Services Inc. helped construct the Web site and data hub, respectively.

Senior White House officials have consistently attributed the site's problems to unanticipated demand, but Gibbs challenged that explanation Monday.

"This was bungled badly," he said. "This was not a server problem, just too many people came to the Web site, this is a Web site architecture problem. I think it is, again, excruciatingly embarrassing.”

And Gibbs is not the only traditional supporter of the White House criticizing its handling of the Affordable Care Act launch today. Washington Post Wonkblog's Ezra Klein posted a piece Monday calling the recent rollout "a failure."

Congressional Republicans, who have already launched multiple probes of the marketplaces this month, are likely to intensify their scrutiny of the recent rollout this week.

"Despite our warnings that the law was not ready for prime time, the administration repeatedly brushed us off, proclaiming everything was 'on track," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton in a statement Monday. "The first two weeks of enrollment have been a nightmare, and we now know despite over three years to prepare, the administration was in over its head. After hundreds of millions of dollars spent on a shoddy website and numerous broken promises, the American people deserve answers, and we are going to get to the bottom of this mess in the coming weeks."

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Scott Clement · October 14, 2013