Obama: Obamacare Really Is More Than a Website

President Obama speaks about fiscal policy at George Washington University on April 13, 2011 in Washington, DC. President Obama laid out his plan for deficit and debt reduction.
National Journal
Sophie Novack
Nov. 19, 2013, 12:48 p.m.

The Af­ford­able Care Act has been around a lot longer than the troubled rol­lout of Health­Care.gov, Pres­id­ent Obama re­minded ex­ec­ut­ives Tues­day.

“Many parts of the Af­ford­able Care Act are already in place and work­ing ex­actly how they’re sup­posed to,” he said at The Wall Street Journ­al’s CEO Coun­cil Meet­ing.

The pres­id­ent poin­ted to what he said were a num­ber of suc­cess­ful Obama­care pro­vi­sions that have already been im­ple­men­ted: bet­ter deals on em­ploy­er cov­er­age; al­low­ing chil­dren un­der 26 to stay on their par­ents’ plans; lower pre­scrip­tion-drug prices for seni­ors; and re­bates for those whose in­surers are spend­ing too much on ad­min­is­trat­ive costs rather than care.

As for the web­site it­self, Obama said the price and products were good, and that com­pet­i­tion in the mar­ket­place had caused in­surers to bid prices that were lower than ex­pec­ted.

However, Obama said he has learned a few les­sons from the tech side of the ex­per­i­ence. “We prob­ably un­der­es­tim­ated the com­plex­it­ies of build­ing out a site that works the way it should,” he said.

Obama echoed the need for re­form in the pro­cure­ment pro­cess for fed­er­al in­form­a­tion tech­no­logy, which has re­ceived bi­par­tis­an sup­port in Con­gress re­cently, say­ing the way the gov­ern­ment does IT pro­cure­ment now is not very ef­fi­cient. “There’s prob­ably no big­ger gap in the private and pub­lic sec­tor than IT,” he said.

The pres­id­ent cited par­tis­an op­pos­i­tion to the law as a chal­lenge that has cre­ated a rock­i­er rol­lout than he an­ti­cip­ated. “One side of Cap­it­ol Hill is in­ves­ted in fail­ure,” he said, which makes the pro­cess of get­ting the site fixed more dif­fi­cult.

Yet Obama re­mained op­tim­ist­ic that the web­site prob­lems would be fixed. “I am con­fid­ent that the mod­el we built off the ex­ist­ing in­sur­ance sys­tem will suc­ceed,” he said. The two re­quire­ments, the pres­id­ent said, are get­ting the site work­ing, and re­market­ing and rebrand­ing the law in the cur­rent polit­ic­al en­vir­on­ment.

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