Obama preaches patience


Janice Baker was a curious choice to introduce President Obama on Monday at the White House, where he delivered a nationally televised address assuring the American people that the rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s website really hasn’t been as bad as most of them think.

The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services declared Ms. Baker, 59, the first resident of the First State to enroll in the federal government’s health insurance “marketplace.” But her experience hardly is the advertisement for Obamacare the White House apparently thinks.

The president acknowledged that Healthcare.gov, the website on which interested Americans are supposed to be able to apply for insurance and browse and buy affordable plans, “hasn’t worked as smoothly as it was supposed to work.” Indeed, CNBC reported last week that as few as 1 in 100 persons who have tried to enroll in Obamacare since it launched Oct. 1 have been able to do so.

For those 99 of 100 who haven’t been able to enroll on Healthcare.gov, Obama advised them to simply “bypass the website” and sign-up for Obamacare “the old-fashioned way,” by contacting a call center where, he claimed, “wait times have averaged less than one minute.”

But that wasn’t the experience of Baker, co-owner of the Heavenly Hound Hotel in Selbyville, Del. “I started looking right at Oct. 1,” she told the Wilmington News Journal last week. “I had made several attempts online to enroll and activate my membership. I could not get in to save my life.”

So, Baker switched to the phone, as President Obama advises, dialing 1-800-318-2596. After an hour and a half on hold, she was turned away because an Obamacare rep’s computer locked up. When Baker called the next time, the same thing happened.

Finally, after two weeks and numerous unsuccessful attempts to enroll in Obamacare, Baker finally succeeded. All that was required, she told the News Journal, was to clear her computer’s Internet browsing history, cookies and other temporary data.

Baker’s narrative may explain why the White House invited her to introduce the president. Her account of her frustration enrolling in Obamacare suggests that she bears some, if not much, of the blame because she didn’t clean up her computer before going to the Healthcare.gov website.

Similarly, after kind of apologizing for what he described as “kinks” in the Obamacare site, the president closed by bashing Republicans, as if the GOP had anything to do with the disastrous rollout, which, said Robert Gibbs, President Obama’s former press secretary, “is excruciatingly embarrassing for the White House,” as well as Kathleen Sebelius’ Department of Health and Human Services, which oversaw the rollout.

“I recognize,” said President Obama, closing his remarks, “that the Republican Party has made blocking the Affordable Care Act its signature policy idea. Sometimes it seems to be the one thing that unifies the party today.”

Well it’s not just Republicans who thought the president should have delayed Obamacare’s rollout a year, as Republicans proposed during the bitter government shutdown and debt-ceiling impasse. Nearly 60 percent of Americans agreed, according to a poll this month jointly conducted by Democratic polling firm Anderson Robbins Research and Republican firm Shaw & Co. Research.

Had Mr. Obama acceded to such a delay, as he did for the nation’s big corporations, the administration could have taken more time to ensure the Healthcare.gov computers were in proper working order, and the rollout of Obamacare could have been a success that even the president’s loyal opposition couldn’t deny.

— From the Orange County Register

 

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