US President Barack Obama said yesterday there was "no excuse" for the cascade of computer problems that have marred the launch of key elements in his health care law, but declared he was confident the administration would be able to fix the issues.
"There's no sugarcoating it," Obama said. "Nobody is more frustrated than I am."
The president said his administration was doing "everything we can possibly do" to get the federally run websites up and running. And he guaranteed that everyone who wants to get insurance through the new health care exchanges will be able to.
The troublesome launch has been a glaring embarrassment for Obama's signature legislative achievement and could impact on next year's congressional elections as well as the president's legacy.
Obama's event in the White House Rose Garden had the feeling of a health care rally, with guests applauding as Obama ticked through what he sees as benefits of the law.
The president insisted that the law is about more than just a website. "The essence of the law, the health insurance that's available to people, is working just fine," he said.
The White House says more than 19 million people have visited HealthCare.gov since the site went live on October 1. Officials also say half-a-million people have applied for insurance on the federal- and state-run websites.
Administration officials initially blamed a high volume of interest for the frozen screens that many people encountered when they first logged on to the website. Since then, they have also acknowledged issues with software and some elements of the system's design.
However, the White House has yet to fully detail exactly what went wrong with the online system consumers were supposed to use to sign up for coverage. And Obama yesterday did not explain how the problems in detail or why they were not fixed before sign-ups opened to the public.
The president did acknowledge that the failures would provide new fodder for opponents of the law, often referred to as "Obamacare." With the website not working as intended, "that makes a lot of supporters nervous," he said.
But he said, "it's time for folks to stop rooting for its failure."