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Obama Administration Addresses Health Care Website Fumbles

Posted: October 20, 2013

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Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said no one is more frustrated than President Obama, who is expected to address the glitches in a speech on Monday. The White House also said that 476,000 Americans had started health insurance applications during the first three weeks of the program.

A woman looks at the HealthCare.gov insurance exchange internet site.

A woman looks at the HealthCare.gov insurance exchange internet site. Karen Bleier

The Obama administration has started to confront the many technological problems that have hampered the roll out of the new health care law.

"I think that there's no one more frustrated than the president at the difficulty in the website," Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said on Meet the Press this morning.

If you haven't been paying attention, the insurance exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act went into business this month. The problem is that many people trying to sign up for health insurance have been foiled by numerous technical errors.

Lew said the Department of Health and Human Services will fix the issues, but added that the "real test" of the new law won't come until January, when coverage begins.

"I think that if we get that right, everyone will regret that the early weeks were choppy on the website. But the test is: are people getting coverage and are they getting the care that they need. And we're confident we're going to be on track to do that," Lew said.

Last night, the AP reported that 476,000 Americans had started health insurance applications during the first three weeks of the program. That's a tiny portion of the 7 million the Congressional Budget Office projected would sign up during the inaugural six-month open enrollment period.

The AP reports:

"Interest in the insurance markets appears to continue to be high. Officials said about 19 million people had visited HealthCare.gov as of Friday night.

"People seeking insurance must fill out applications before selecting specific plans. The applications include personal information, including income figures that are used to calculate any subsidies the applicant may qualify for.

"More than one person can be included on an application.

"Of the 476,000 applications that have been started, just over half have been from the 36 states where the federal government is taking the lead in running the markets. The rest of the applications have come from the 14 states running their own markets, along with Washington, D.C."

USA Today reports that President Obama will address the glitches during an event in the White House on Monday.

The paper had previously reported that the health care exchange website was built using 10-year-old technology and may "require constant fixes and updates for the next six months and the eventual overhaul of the entire system."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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