The president’s address reflected the rising anxiety within the administration over the widening problems with the exchange’s enrollment process, namely through a federal Web site that has shut out many consumers looking to buy insurance plans before the benefits take effect on Jan. 1.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday shows that a majority of Americans -- 56 percent -- believe flaws with the Web site reflect larger problems with the health-care law, an alarming trend for the administration. But more Americans also support the law despite the enrollment issues, with 46 percent saying they support the law now, compared with 42 percent who say so last month.
In his remarks, Obama was clear about his disappoinment with the site’s launch. “There’s no sugarcoating it: The Web site is too slow; people have been getting stuck during the application process,” he said. “And I think it is fair to say that no one is more frustrated by that than I am.
“There’s no excuse for the problems,” he added, “and they are being fixed.” He said the government is “doing everything we can possibly do” to repair the site, including 24-hour work from “some of the best IT talent in the country.”
Speaking in the White House’s Rose Garden, surrounded by a handful of guests who he said have benefited from the law, Obama served as chief salesman for the three-year-old Affordable Care Act. He emphasized the benefits that have taken effect and played down the faulty Web site. In outlining the health-care changes under the new law, Obama said twice that “those do not depend on a Web site.”
As he insisted that problems would soon be fixed, Obama also highlighted alternative ways to apply for the health plans. Consumers can buy insurance through the exchanges “the old-fashioned way, offline,” he said, including through call centers or in person.
But the political and practical mood of the president’s address reflected problems with the Web site that go beyond the technical issues that have been outlined by administration officials and that Obama emphasized Monday.
The growing concerns over the flawed site — and the slow progress in addressing the problems since its rollout three weeks ago — have become a focus of Republican criticism in the aftermath of the government shutdown. Early on in that political standoff, Republicans demanded defunding or delaying the health care law, known informally as Obamacare, in return for keeping the government open.
Addressing the opposition party Monday, Obama said, “I realize Republicans have made blocking the Affordable Care Act their signature policy idea. And I think, with the problems with the Web site so far, they are likely to go after it even harder.”