Pressure Mounts for Obamacare Fixes as Deadline Looms

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: Todd Park (C), U.S. Chief Technology Officer of the White House Office of Science and Technology testifies while Frank Baitman (L), Deputy Assistant HHS Secretary for Information Technology, and VanRoekel (R) U.S. Chief Information Officer listen during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the Affordable Health Care Act roll out November 13, 2013 in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony on Obamacare implementation and the problems with the website. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
National Journal
Sophie Novack
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Sophie Novack
Nov. 13, 2013, 9:51 a.m.

The in­form­a­tion-tech­no­logy of­fi­cials testi­fy­ing at a House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form hear­ing Wed­nes­day were re­served in their con­fid­ence that the Obama­care fed­er­al ex­change web­site would in fact be re­paired by the end of Novem­ber.

“The goal that has been laid out is for the site not to be per­fect, but for the vast ma­jor­ity to be able to use it,” White House Chief Tech­no­logy Of­ficer Todd Park said at the hear­ing. “It’s a goal we’re gun­ning for, and we’re work­ing very hard get there.”

The ad­min­is­tra­tion had set the end of Novem­ber as the goal to have Health­ run­ning smoothly for the vast ma­jor­ity of users. Re­pairs are be­ing made around the clock, but con­fid­ence may be dwind­ling for how fully func­tion­al the site will be.

An of­fi­cial told The Wash­ing­ton Post that per­sist­ent prob­lems mean that the site is un­likely to be fully func­tion­al by Nov. 30, though the White House main­tains the goal is still achiev­able.

Time is run­ning short for both con­sumers and in­surers to fig­ure out their cov­er­age op­tions. The dead­line to en­roll for cov­er­age that is ef­fect­ive Jan. 1 is Dec. 15.

Can­cel­la­tion let­ters from in­sur­ance com­pan­ies are adding ex­tra strain to the situ­ation. If in­di­vidu­als whose plans are can­celed are not able to en­roll in new cov­er­age by mid-Decem­ber, they will be un­in­sured un­til they are able to sign up.

Amid the grow­ing pres­sure, even Demo­crat­ic law­makers are in­creas­ingly sup­port­ing le­gis­la­tion that would con­tin­ue can­celed policies at least an­oth­er year.

At the House hear­ing, Reps. James Lank­ford, R-Okla., and Michelle Lu­jan Grisham, D-N.M., ad­dressed the cov­er­age gap that could oc­cur if the web­site is not fixed soon.

“We’ve been fight­ing a long time in New Mex­ico to find ways to ac­cess af­ford­able health care. I need, we need, our con­stitu­ents need the web­site to work,” said Grisham, who noted that nearly 25 per­cent of people in her state are un­in­sured. “The end of Novem­ber leaves very little room for er­ror. I know it’s not easy, but I want to make sure for the re­cord that there’s real ur­gency here.”

Asked wheth­er he felt that same ur­gency, Park answered, “Ab­so­lutely.”

Yet when asked re­peatedly by mem­bers of the com­mit­tee wheth­er he could be cer­tain the site would be func­tion­ing by Nov. 30, Park avoided mak­ing any prom­ises. “The team is work­ing really hard to hit that goal, and that’s what I’m able to say right now,” he said.

“As a former Web de­veloper that’s what I was telling cli­ents when we were go­ing to miss a dead­line,” re­marked Rep. Blake Far­enthold, R-Texas.

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