WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — A House committee investigation will be launched into the problems the healthcare.gov website has experienced so far.
CBS News reports that the House Energy and Commerce Committee will probe what has gone wrong since the website was launched on Oct. 1 for people to enroll in health care exchanges.
Technology glitches have frustrated many consumers trying to sign up for coverage online, and efforts to upgrade and repair healthcare.gov are ongoing.
In an interview with KCCI-TV, President Barack Obama said it was unacceptable what was happening.
“The website that was supposed to do this all in a seamless way has had way more glitches than I think are acceptable,” Obama said.
While consumer interest in the new health insurance markets has been undeniably strong, it’s hard to get a sense of how many people have been able to navigate balky federal and state websites and successfully enroll. Numbers released by states running their own marketplaces suggest upward of 100,000 people have enrolled so far, out of millions of potential interested customers.
The administration refuses to release numbers for the 36 states in which it is taking the lead. Officials at first said the frozen computer screens and other issues were the result of a high volume of interest. They later acknowledged software and design issues were also to blame.
The Department of Health and Human Services belatedly rolled out a feature that allows consumers to get a look at health plans in their area without first establishing an account. The requirement that people set up an account before shopping was at odds with the normal way e-commerce websites are run, and was blamed for overloading the system.
Appearing earlier this week on MSNBC, former White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the situation is “excruciatingly embarrassing” for the administration.
“This was bungled badly,” said Gibbs, adding: “When they get it fixed, I hope they fire some people that were in charge of making sure this thing was supposed to work.”
Although Gibbs did not refer to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday she has “the full confidence of the president.”
The potential political fallout from the troubled launch of the insurance markets isn’t the major issue, however. There are bigger concerns for the impact on average Americans and, if signups remain anemic, on federal taxpayers.
The more uninsured people who buy coverage, the sooner they’ll have access to services — well-patient checkups and prescription drugs among them — to help them improve their health and avoid a crisis that could be far costlier than preventive medicine. Their children will have access to services, too.
Just as important, robust enrollment by younger, healthier people is critical because older people and people with illnesses, who are more expensive to insure, are highly motivated to sign up. Insurers will be relying on revenue from policies they sell to younger people who need fewer services to help make up the difference.
An insurance pool tilted toward older, sicker people also would raise costs for the government, which will be subsidizing the coverage.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the federal enrollment estimates in a public records request with Idaho’s health insurance marketplace, Your Health Idaho.
Uninsured people have until Dec. 15 to sign up for coverage to take effect Jan. 1, when most Americans will be required to have health insurance.
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