Politics
              White House press secretary Jay Carney briefs reporters in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013. Carney opened with remarks on Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki

Carney says Obamacare website will fail for 20 percent

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Monday confirmed reports that the Obamacare website won’t be able to handle at least 20 percent of Americans who try to buy government-designed health plans.

“The way to look at that figure is that of, say, 10 who go on the system, roughly two won’t get through the system — so two out of 10,” or 80 percent, he said.

The people who won’t be able to get through will be those with “technical difficulties,” people who can’t handle the complexity of assembling their personal data, and people with complex situations, he said.

Those situations could include adult children living in different states, or relatives living in the country illegally.

People “with those kinds of issues are going to be better served by using a navigator, either going to the call-in center or going to one of the in-person centers, hospitals, community centers and the like where there are folks who are trained to help walk individuals through this process and who can help them,” he said.

The 80 percent figure is a long drop from the president’s breezy September promise of Amazon-like simplicity, but is also a huge jump from the website’s paralysis in October, when only six people were able to sign up for government-designed healthcare on the first day.

“Just visit HealthCare.gov, and there you can compare insurance plans, side by side, the same way you’d shop for a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon,” President Barack Obama declared Oct. 1 during a speech in the Rose Garden.

“And you don’t have to take my word for it.  Go on the website, HealthCare.gov, check it out for yourself,” he added.

Since then, Obama’s deputies have been working to make the site operational.

But a variety of tech experts say Obamacare’s Christmas-light tangle of software, laws, regulations and databases may be extremely difficult to unravel for several months or even years.

The website’s failure is threatening to kill Obama’s first-term accomplishment.

It is preventing millions of people from obtaining government-compliant insurance to replace commercial insurance sold in 2013.

It is also reducing the willingness of younger people to sign up for insurance, who the administration is relying on to subsidize health costs for older and sicker Americans.

The site’s failure, and the public blowback, is causing many Democratic legislators to back away from Obamacare. On Nov. 15, for example, 39 endangered Democrats voted for a GOP-drafted bill that Obama had promised to veto.

The measure is now being obstructed by the Senate’e Democratic leaders.

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