“There’s no excuse for the problems.”
That was President Barack Obama Monday, telling the nation he understands the growing frustration with the healthcare.gov federal website that millions of American people are supposed to be able to use to shop for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
Except they can’t. Since it was launched Oct. 1, the federal site has been plagued by breakdowns, delays and technical problems that belie its goal of making shopping for health coverage simple, easy and stress-free.
Of course, Kentucky residents don’t have that problem. Kentucky is one of 16 states that opted to create its own health insurance exchange and the site, Kynect, is getting national attention for its smooth launch and the thousands of people flocking to it to apply for health coverage.
But residents in 34 states where officials refused to launch their own sites must go to the federal site to shop for health care online and by most accounts it has been a highly frustrating endeavor. That includes Indiana.
The disappointing launch of the website, a key feature of the three-year-old health law, also called Obamacare, is a setback but hardly a failure, and one the government is working to fix.
“We are doing everything we can to get the website working faster, better, sooner,” the president said in a speech from the Rose Garden, surrounded by smiling citizens he said have already benefited from the law aimed to bring health coverage to nearly all Americans without health insurance.
The health law is under relentless attack from Republicans, including some tea party extremists who hate the law so much they were willing to force the recent government shutdown in their failed effort to dismantle it.
The extremism is worst in the House, where Republicans have led futile efforts to defund the law more than 40 times while failing to do other basic tasks including passing a viable Farm Bill and working with the Senate to reconcile budget differences.
Some Republicans, including Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, are demanding that Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, be “fired” over the problems.
That’s premature. The public needs to give the government a chance to fix the problems and give the site a chance to work.
As President Obama noted Monday, people have six months to sign up for health care.
And the last major upgrade of the nation’s health system, the introduction in 1965 of Medicare, the government plan for those over 65, was beset with massive problems and complications during its early years but is widely viewed as a highly successful health plan today.
Clearly, the federal government needs to get this right. But the public, and the law’s critics, need to give it a chance.