While the president has apologized profusely for the healthcare.gov debacle, on Tuesday he said Republicans only made the situation worse. Speaking at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Tuesday, Obama noted that the Affordable Care Act was passed on partisan lines, “not for lack of trying, because I met with an awful lot of Republicans trying to get them to go along,” and that came with a price. “One of the problems we’ve had is one side of Capitol Hill is invested in failure and — and that makes, I think, the — the kind of iterative process of fixing glitches as they come up and finetuning the law more challenging,” the president said, in a comment likely to provoke even more partisan bickering.
The remark came after the president recapped the mistakes he and his administration made in rolling out healthcare.gov, saying they “underestimated the complexities” of building the website. “The way the federal government does procurement and does IT is just generally not very efficient. In fact, there’s probably no bigger gap between the private sector and the public sector than IT,” he said. Obama declared he’s confident that the system will be fixed soon, but added, “We’re going to have to, obviously, remarket and rebrand, and that will be challenging in this political environment.”
When that process can start is still unclear. While testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Tuesday, Henry Chao, deputy chief information officer at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, revealed that 30 percent to 40 percent of the project is still under construction, according to the New York Times. The agency focused on completing the part of the health insurance marketplace that consumers can see by Oct. 1, but they’re still working on “back office” functions like transferring subsidy payments to insurance companies.
While the administration has said that the system should be fixed, at least for most users, by Nov. 30, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius suggested that’s still a long shot. “The 30th of November is not a magic go, no-go date,” Sebelius told the Associated Press Tuesday. “It is a work of constant improvement. We have some very specific things we know we need to complete by the 30th, and that punch list is getting knocked out every week.”