More than six weeks after the botched launch of Obamacare’s public exchanges, President Obama has taken few concrete steps to offer the accountability demanded by both critics and supporters of the health care law.
The president delivered his most extensive mea culpa last week in response to his unshakable Obamacare woes, saying the problem-ridden healthcare.gov website and uproar surrounding his broken promise that all Americans could keep their insurance coverage were “on me.”
But in acknowledging the “fumbled” rollout, the president has offered prescriptions that come with major caveats, hardly deterring criticisms for bungling the most comprehensive overhaul to the health care system since Medicare.
Obama and his top surrogates say the federal Obamacare website will work smoothly for the “vast majority” of users by the end of the month. But the administration now concedes the overarching goal is that healthcare.gov works for 80 percent of those trying to enroll in health exchanges, meaning millions of Americans will encounter problems after the White House's self-imposed deadline.
Despite the disastrous rollout for Obama's signature domestic achievement, administration officials responsible for building and overseeing the online marketplaces have received little more than a public scolding.
Even Democrats have questioned why no heads have rolled — and the White House says not to expect “personnel decisions” as long as administration officials are focused on fixing healthcare.gov.
Also, complying with the president's so-called “fix” for the millions of Americans losing health care plans not meeting Obamacare standards is voluntary for insurers. Insurance companies have roundly dismissed the White House framework, likely declining to extend for another year the cancelled health plans in question.
In the wake of those episodes, the president is left with plenty of skin in the game but with little more than Band-Aids to alleviate the self-inflicted wounds — at least for now.
“It's a lethal duo,” lamented one veteran Democratic operative, increasingly frustrated by the White House's Obamacare game plan.
“Things haven't gotten noticeably better for most people and nobody is being punished for the problems. You can't have both. Something has to change. Like yesterday.”
The question of whether Obama should hand out pink slips is particularly vexing for the White House. It's a difficult stance to insist that no major players get fired until after the website is fixed.
"I think they're going to have to hold somebody accountable for the botched rollout and the website not working — somebody at HHS or a group of people," former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday on NBC's “Today Show.”
“I think if this were to happen in the private sector, somebody would have probably already lost their job and I think the only way to restore ultimate confidence in going forward is to make sure that whoever was in charge of this isn't in charge of the long-term health care plan," he added.
Yet, the president continues to stand behind Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and other senior officials who failed to deliver on lofty Obamacare promises.
The White House is calling for patience from Democrats worried about the political fallout from the Obamacare issues ahead of the 2014 midterms.
But that sales pitch comes with an expiration date, political observers said.
“This piecemeal stuff isn't very effective,” Frank Donatelli, political director for President Ronald Reagan said. “To the hardliners saying 'give no ground,'” that would be disastrous.”
“The calculus changes when their party members continue to scream,” he added of the White House's messaging quandary. “And they'll scream when their re-election prospects are in jeopardy.”
More than three dozen Democrats joined Republicans last week in passing a GOP-backed plan in the House that would restore cancelled insurance policies for millions of Americans.
The more problematic vote for Obama, however, is in the upper chamber. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is pushing a similar bill that could put the administration in the awkward position of potentially having to veto Democratic legislation.
Stuck in a political rut, Obama may soon have no choice but to make a course correction, some progressives said. The easiest message, they say, is to give some employees their walking papers.
“This isn't working,” a former Obama campaign adviser told the Washington Examiner. “Will a shakeup magically fix everything? Of course not. It's more about the message — and if not now, when?”