Maybe it was just a slip of the tongue, but President Obama Thursday evening appeared to be as miffed about personally “getting burned” by the controversial launch of the Obamacare website as he was troubled by the inconvenience it has caused millions of Americans during the past month.
Moreover, he gave a less than rousing endorsement of his embattled Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, who has repeatedly apologized for the snafus and technical glitches that have dogged the HealthCare.gov website since it went live Oct. 1.
In responding to a question about what he might do if the administration’s 24/7 “technical surge” fails to fix most of the website’s problems by Dec. 1, Obama stumbled through an answer, noting, “I've been burned already with -- a website -- well, more importantly, the American people have been burned by – a website that has been dysfunctional.”
Rather than saying whether he would delay the signup period or put the website temporarily on hold, Obama stressed alternative ways for uninsured Americans to sign up for insurance before the March 30th deadline: “ What we've also been doing is creating a whole other set of tracks. Making sure that people can apply by phone effectively. Making sure that people can apply in person effectively. So what I'm confident about is that anybody who wants to buy health insurance through the marketplace, they are going be able to buy it. "
This is pretty much what the president has been saying since October 21, when he sought to staunch a growing uproar over the massive technical problems by urging people to turn to a toll free national call-in center to get assistance or download and fill out paper applications. During that address, Obama sounded more like an insurance salesman than the nation’s chief executive.
During his interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, Obama sounded more like a wounded leader putting relentless pressure on Sebelius and other administration officials to clean up a mess that is threatening to undermine his signature health care reform legislation. Next to Obama, Sebelius, the former Kansas governor, has been the face of Obamacare. The HHS secretary has taken extremely harsh criticism from lawmakers and the media for the law’s rocky rollout – including a verbal beating Wednesday at the hands of Republicans and Democrats alike on the Senate Finance Committee.
Asked by Todd whether he still had “full confidence” in Sebelius, Obama replied, “You know, I think Kathleen Sebelius, under tremendously difficult circumstances over the last four and a half years -- has done a great job in setting up the insurance markets so that there is a good product out there for people to get. You know, Kathleen Sebelius doesn't write code. Yeah, she wasn't our IT person. I think she'd be the first to admit that, if we had to do it all over again, that there would have been a whole lot more questions than were asked in terms of how this thing is working.”
“But my priority right now is to get it fixed. And, you know, ultimately, the buck stops with me. You know, I’m the president. This is my team. If it’s not working, it’s my job to get it fixed.” - The Fiscal Times’ Brianna Ehley contributed to this story.
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