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Nation/World

October 22, 2013

Obama: ‘No excuse’ for health care signup problems

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Monday offered “no excuses” — and little explanation — for the computer bugs still frustrating Americans who are trying to enroll online for insurance plans at the center of his health care law. But software developers tasked with building the site said they saw signs a year ago that the debut could fail.

One source of the troubles appears to be the testing procedures employed before the rollout three weeks ago. Several developers of the HealthCare.gov website told The Associated Press they were worried for months about the system’s readiness and whether the software meant to link key computer systems was being properly put through its paces.

In addition, congressional investigators raised concerns recently that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had taken on the job of testing the computer systems for the new markets during the final weeks before the sign-ups opened Oct. 1. That job is often handled by specialized software companies.

Obama, who emphasized the website’s simplicity in the week’s leading up to the insurance sign-ups, acknowledged there could now be “no sugarcoating” the problems even as he talked up the benefits of the law at a Rose Garden event that had the feel of a pep rally.

“The website that’s supposed to make it easy to apply for and purchase the insurance is not working the way it should for everybody,” he said.

He insisted that the problems would be fixed and all Americans seeking insurance would be able to sign up. But it was not clear how quickly that would happen. The administration is beefing up call centers and encouraging more people to enroll over the phone while the website problems persist.

The flood of computer problems since the website went online has been deeply embarrassing for the White House.

The glitches have called into question whether the administration is capable of implementing the complex policy and why senior White House officials — including the president — appear to have been unaware of the scope of the problems when the health insurance markets, known as exchanges, opened.

Obama stopped short of apologizing for the failures, saying instead that “nobody is more frustrated than me.”

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