Who’s to blame for glitches with the healthcare exchange website?

October 22, 2013

Though President Barack Obama takes responsibility, it is still unclear when the healthcare exchange website will be fixed.

Since its debut on October 1, the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) healthcare insurance exchanges, hosted at HealthCare.gov, have been criticized for being too difficult for users. Complaints about the site have swarmed the Internet for weeks, as users report having problems with frozen screens, log-ins and registrations, and purchasing insurance plans.

In a press conference, President Barack Obama shouldered the blame for the slow fixes to the website, while attempting to bandage the public’s trust in the exchanges, as well as the ACA.

“The problem has been that the website that’s supposed to make it easy to apply for and purchase the insurance is not working the way it should for everybody. And there’s no sugarcoating it. The website has been too slow, people have been getting stuck during the application process,” he said.  “And there’s no excuse for the problems, and these problems are getting fixed.”

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, has also been blamed for the glitches in the exchanges’ rollout. Two Republican senators have requested that Sebelius testify in congressional hearings about the problems with the website. Sebelius has yet to respond, though she declined to appear before a House of Representatives committee.

Sebelius has appeared in some botched public relations attempts to boost confidence about fixes to the website. Media reports say that communications giant Verizon, and other private industry tech companies, have been tapped to work with HHS on fixing usability issues.

Obama also stressed that people wanting to sign up for insurance can do so at in-person centers, call a hotline, or send in a paper application. He says that staffing has increased 50% in call centers for the exchanges.

No timeline was given on when the site would be fully functional, only that experts are working 24/7 to increase capacity and fix the problems. Though it’s tough to estimate costs, Digital Trends reports that the botched website could have cost taxpayers more than $500 million-more than Facebook’s operating costs for its first six years.  

Overall the Obama administration reports that 476,000 applications have been filed on the website. There’s been no confirmation as to how many of those applications have been completed. The White House projects that 7 million people will be enrolled in healthcare plans through the exchanges by the end of the 6-month enrollment period.