Politics
President Barack Obama speaks about health care from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington Oct. 21, 2013. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque) President Barack Obama speaks about health care from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington Oct. 21, 2013. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)  

Salesman in chief pitches Obamacare to midday TV audience

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

The nation’s commander in chief Monday became the salesman in chief, repeatedly touting the 1-800 number for his crippled Obamacare health network.

Operators are standing by to receive calls from people who can’t use the malfunctioning website, Obama said at a press event held in the White House Rose Garden.

They can take calls in 150 languages, he said.

“It may be a good deal for you,” he announced.

“Thousands of people are signing up and saving money as we speak,” he declared.

Telephone wait times are only a few minutes, and sign-up only takes 25 minutes for an individual and 45 minutes for a family, he insisted.

“The product is good. … It is high quality and it’s affordable,” said the pitchman.

People are getting medical coverage for the cost of “maybe the equivalent of your cellphone bill, or your cable bill, and that’s a good deal,” he told his midday TV audience.

People don’t have to pay their premiums until Dec. 15, and they don’t have to sign up until March, he said.

The website that is intended to help people find health-care packages that are offered by companies is having problems, he admitted.

“There is no sugar-coating it … [but] it is fair to say nobody has been more frustrated at than I am,” he said. The “kinks” are being worked on, he said, adding that the website “is not as efficient as we want.”

But he insisted, “the [companies'] prices are lower than we expected. The choice [of alternative plans] is wider than we expected.”

Obama is hoping that his Rose Garden rhetoric will mollify the increasing number of Americans who are being hit by higher health-care costs. Their numbers will likely rise during 2014 when medium and large employers must revamp the health-insurance services they provide to roughly 100 million employees and family members.

Throughout 2013, numerous companies have reduced employment and reduced workers’ hours to escape the high cost of the Obamacare regulations. Unemployment remains very high, and many people have given up trying to find work.

The untested online portal to the mandatory government-designed Obamacare network crashed on the opening day, Oct. 1.

Since then, officials have rushed to minimize the problems, which reportedly include software bottlenecks and the transfer of incomplete or inaccurate data from the government website to quasi-government companies, such as Aetna.

Administration officials say 470,000 people have provided their basic data to the government. Officials have not said how many of these people have been awarded subsidies, nor how many have bought services from the companies.

The number of people who have successfully agreed on contracts with health-care companies may be well under 50,000.

Officials had hoped to have 7 million people enrolled via the online site by March.

But they’re far from reaching their goals, even though the Obamacare law has caused employers to eliminate insurance packages held by millions of Americans through 2013. Those Americans have to buy medical services via Obamacare, usually via the website.

The shortfall is a critical problem, because it might mean that younger and healthier people are avoiding the program.

Without those healthier people to offset the high-cost of providing health-care to old and sick people, the monthly cost of health-care benefits could rise rapidly, prompting many Americans to quit paying into the system.

That process would drive up prices for the sick people who remain in the Obamacare network.

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