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POLITICS: PennAve

Technical glitches plague Obamacare rollout

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Politics,White House,Maryland,Obamacare,Health Care,PennAve,Susan Crabtree,Government Shutdown,Jay Carney,Technology

The launch of Obamacare's new insurance exchanges on Tuesday was plagued by technical glitches.

The technical delays will likely raise concerns among Democrats already worried about the rollout of the complicated health care overhaul. They also came at an inopportune time for the administration, a day after Republicans forced a government shutdown after Democrats rejected efforts to defund or delay Obamacare.

The White House has spent weeks downplaying earlier delays of key portions of the law and saying that glitches are to be expected in any type of large-scale rollout.

Confronted with a sea of headlines about the technical problems Tuesday, the White House said it was taking the long view and predicted all the technical issues would be worked out over time.

But critics say that synching the databases needed for consumers to sign up for insurance plans and receive tax credits and subsidies will be a more complicated process than the administration will admit.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said rollouts of the prescription drug benefit passed under President George W. Bush similarly experienced technical problems early on, as did the rollout of Medicare and Social Security.

“There will, of course, be some glitches,” he said on MSNBC's “Morning Joe.” “There always are in the introductions of these kinds of programs.

“But what's absolutely true is that, in all 50 states of the country today, Americans who have not been able to get access to affordable health insurance can enroll and look at their options, see for themselves the average of 50 plans they can choose from, and make the right choice for their family and their finances,” Carney added.

Later Tuesday, Carney also attributed the crashed Obamacare exchange websites and glitches in the sign-up software to overwhelming interest and likened the situation to people trying to get tickets to the first Pittsburgh Pirates home playoff game in over two decades.

“I mean, you know when you go on a site, and it's hard to load the page that it's because a lot of people like you want to find out if tickets are available,” he said. “And the great news about this is it's not one game, it's not one night. The seats are unlimited and the availability will be there for every American who wants affordable health insurance.”

The president, though, is pressing ahead with plans to tout the new health care reforms. Obama held a closed event at the Oval Office at noon today with Americans who have already benefited from the law.

He also delivered a Rose Garden statement after, calling on Republicans to pass a funding bill and end the shutdown. The president said that despite GOP opposition, Obamacare was now the law.

Some Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill spun the glitches in a positive light, saying the computer and phone system crashes were caused by an early surge of millions of Americans eager to sign up for health care exchanges.

"In New York alone during the first few hours more than 2 1/2 million people wanted to sign up," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said at a pro-Obamacare event. "The biggest challenge we have today around America is keeping our websites up because of the volume.

"If this doesn't show the hunger Americans have for signing up for health care, I don't know what does."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said public enthusiasm for the program has been strong despite an attempt by Republicans to "distract everyone from the enrollment of the Affordable Care Act by shutting down government."

She added, "The American people are ready."

The glitches, though, will likely complicate the administration’s effort to sell a skeptical public to sign up for the exchanges.

Individuals trying to sign up online for the law's health exchanges and compare insurance plans faced a number of difficulties. Some were confronted with “error” messages asking them to “please wait” because of a larger than expected volume of users accessing the websites. Others received “system error” messages that prevented them from creating an account.

In Maryland, an early adopter of Obamacare whose sign-up system was expected to be in top shape, those trying to enroll received apologies.

“We apologize for the temporary inconvenience. We are experiencing temporary connectivity issues at www.MarylandHealthConnection.gov and expect to revolve [sic] by 12:00 Noon,” said the note.

Nearing 1 p.m., the message changed to apologize for the high volume of users on the site and warn those trying to enroll to “please be patient if the website is operating slowly or you experience any delays.”

The website offered users the choice of clicking on a button that said “No, take me back,” or one that read “Get Started.” Those who chose to proceed, waited minutes to get to the next screen that offered to create an account, and eventually freezing after clicking the “Create Account” option.

In California, the website www.CoveredCA.com showed a road along the state's scenic Pacific Coast Highway with a green sign stating “Welcome to Covered California Your destination for affordable, quality healthcare, including Medi-Cal.

When users clicked on the “Start Here” button, the website either shutdown completely with a “failed to open page” display or simply froze up.

This story was posted at 1:15 p.m. and has been updated. Sean Lengell contributed to this report.

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Susan Crabtree

White House Correspondent
The Washington Examiner