The dust has settled after a last minute bipartisan rally in the Senate temporarily ended the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis with tea party Republicans.
So, the focus has pivoted back to health care and the disastrous rollout problems of President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Complaints started snowballing on the first day of Obamacare registration on Oct. 1, when thousands of people tried to sign up and shop for health insurance on the exchange. Many were greeted with error or temporarily off line messages.
President Obama called the glitch-riddled health care launch “unacceptable,” but has given no sign he intends to hold Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius responsible by asking for her head on a platter, as some Republicans, including tea party darling Ted Crus (R-Texas), have demanded.
HHS announced on their blog post on Sunday plans "to do better" and to add top-notch tech support members to fix and upgrade the HealthCare.gov website.
“We have updated the site several times with new code that includes bug fixes that have greatly improved the HealthCare.gov experience,” the agency said. “Today, more and more individuals are successfully creating accounts, logging in and moving on to apply for coverage and shop for plans. We're proud of these quick improvements, but we know there's still more work to be done.”
The White House contends the AHA site is much more than just a website and blames much of the program failure on the fact that 20 million unique visitors hit the site in the three weeks it has been open — many more than anticipated, since the deadline for signup is two months away on Dec. 15th for plans that go into effect on Jan. 1, but there is a six- month enrollment period.
The administration said that regardless of the issues, almost 500,000 people have managed to register and begin shopping for affordable plans.
Still much work left to be done
Jason Young, spokesman for HHS told Bloomberg News that US tech chief Todd Y. Park has been put in charge of trouble-shooting and fixing the website. He is co-founder of Athenahealth Inc. and Castlight Health Inc.
Park has been described as “incredibly energetic, incredibly precise and incredibly dedicated.”
In addition, the current contractor CGI Group Inc. has been asked to beef up its tech staff.
Meanwhile, Cruz, who fancies himself a Washington outsider with eyes on the 2016 presidential race, has vowed to use his obsession with defunding Obamacare to shut the government down again when they face the same issues in early 2014—which is foolish, say critics, because it didn’t work the first time.
Even Minority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-Ky) called his plan a "losing strategy.”
But, Cruz has been undaunted by scathing criticism from his own party.
“I don’t work for the party bosses in Washington,” he said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Analysts say that Social Security and Medicare had issues when they were first introduced, but solutions were hammered out by lawmakers. Obama has already said he is willing to work with Republicans and Democrats on ideas to make the ACA a better resource for over 30 million people currently without healthcare, but he has no intention of throwing his baby out with the bathwater.
President addresses the nation on Monday
During President Obama’s special address to the nation Monday, he said there’s no “sugar coating” the problems and "no excuses", but they will be fixed. The ACA product, he explained, is good, the prices of the plans are good and the coverage is good, so regardless of the issues, people who need healthcare should not be discouraged, because there is a six-month enrollment window.
He told of a Washington state single mother with a special-needs child, who wrote to thank him because the stress was lifted from her life after signing on to get a plan she could afford.
Obama also mentioned there are several other ways to sign up and shop for plans, which can be done through state plans, in person at local offices; downloadable applications can be mailed in or a person can apply by phone.
Instructions for alternative methods to apply can be found on the homepage of the HealthCare.gov website.
In addition, the president announced the phone number: 1-800-318-2596. The call center is open 24/7 and can answer questions in 150 languages.
More reports from PrairieDogPress
Jean Williams, environmental and political journalist; PrairieDogPress writer; Artistic Director, Keystone Prairie Dogs.***PrairieDogPress is the media channel for keystone-prairie-dogs.com, which is a fundraising website to support environmental groups for extraordinary efforts to protect Great Plains habitat and prairie dogs in the wild. PDP uses humorous images, social commentary and serious-minded political reports to challenge government on numerous levels, including accountability to the people, the protection of threatened species, the environment and Earth’s natural resources.