When the Web site went live Oct. 1, it locked up shortly after midnight as about 2,000 users attempted to complete the first step, according to two people familiar with the project.
As new details emerged about early warning signs of serious deficiencies in HealthCare.gov, Obama on Monday gave a consumer-friendly defense of the health-care law, insisting that the problems many Americans have faced in trying to enroll in insurance plans will be fixed quickly.
“There’s no sugarcoating it: The Web site is too slow; people have been getting stuck during the application process,” he said at a White House event.
At the same time, he admonished Republican critics of the federal insurance exchange, saying that “it is time to stop rooting for its failure.”
The president’s remarks reflected rising anxiety within his administration over the widening problems with the online enrollment process. “There’s no excuse for the problems,” he added, “and they are being fixed.”
Obama said government officials are “doing everything we can possibly do” to repair the site, including 24-hour work from “some of the best IT talent in the country.”
“No one is madder about the Web site than I am, which means it’s going to get fixed,” he added.
White House officials said Monday that the problems have not caused the administration to consider delaying the law’s individual mandate, which requires that most Americans have health insurance next year or pay a fine.
(Read more about the rollout of the new health-care law.)
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday shows that a majority of Americans, 56 percent, believe that the Web site’s flaws reflect larger problems with the health-care law, an alarming figure for the administration. But support for the law is growing despite the enrollment issues, with 46 percent of Americans saying they support it now, compared with 42 percent who said so last month.
Congressional Republicans have called for the firing of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over the enrollment problems. House Republicans have been pressuring her to testify before the Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday to answer questions about the health-care rollout. Sebelius, who is scheduled to be in Phoenix that day, agreed Monday night to appear on Oct. 30 instead.
Several companies working on HealthCare.gov have confirmed that they will send representatives to the hearing. They include two of the main contractors, CGI Federal and Quality Software Services Inc. (QSSI), a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, as well as Serco, which is handling paper applications, and Equifax, which is dealing with some of the income verification.