House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) sat down with Capitol Hill reporters at his weekly Pen and Pad on Tuesday to discuss the government shutdown as well as where House Democrats’ presently are on the debt limit and continuing resolution debate with Congressional Republicans.
Breitbart News raised the issue of the persistent IT issues relating to the Obamacare insurance exchange website, healthcare.gov, and asked Hoyer how the administration and Democrats could continue to push it given the disastrous roll out that began over two weeks ago:
Breitbart News: Now, we have seen the deadline, of course, of the implementation of Obamacare pass, essentially 2 weeks or so. And the idea that the Web site itself in the first few days, there were glitches, people can’t sign on. And the Administration’s response and the Democrats’ is, well, changes were coming, it overloaded the system, et cetera, et cetera.
Hoyer: I don’t think their position is too many are coming.
Breitbart News: Well, people —
Hoyer: Their position is a lot of people are coming.
Breitbart News: But now —
Hoyer: They want a lot of people to come.
Breitbart News: But now we are into, you know, practically the 2-week mark. And Amazon takes a lot of people a day; a number of Web sites take even more people than even the Obamacare website. And it still isn’t working. And the administration still doesn’t want to talk about how many people have enrolled. Isn’t this a little embarrassing, to actually be out pushing this and saying this is a great success?
Hoyer: Look, I think what is embarrassing is that the government is shut down and we are having our credit put at risk. I think that is what is embarrassing. I think that is what is angering the American people.
I think the Affordable Care Act, we all expected there to be start-up difficulties, as there was in the Part D prescription drug program, as you probably know. I don’t know, you weren’t reporting at that point in time when that went into effect, I don’t think. You are pretty young. But, in any event, there were substantial problems — you don’t volunteer. There were substantial problems with the Part D program, which was much narrower.
So the answer is, I think — I am heartened by the fact that in Maryland and in other States, huge interest in the program. I have had a lot of people say, boy, I am glad this is here, you know, I couldn’t get insurance, or I couldn’t afford insurance, whatever, and now I have the opportunity to get it. We have had a good response from young people, those people under 35.
So, you know, I expect the glitches to be ironed out, and they are not surprising.
Unlike Hoyer, media allies of the president have called the roll out of Obamacare “embarrassing.” While The Washington Post’s wonk blog claims the biggest problem for the site are not glitches but only an overload of traffic, Forbes believes the Obamacare site’s problems are due to hiding how costly the plans are to visitors logging on. The New York Times interviewed an insurance executive who said, “These are not glitches,” adding, “The extent of the problems is pretty enormous. At the end of our calls, people say, ‘It’s awful, just awful.'”
Interviews with two dozen contractors, current and former government officials, insurance executives and consumer advocates, as well as an examination of confidential administration documents, point to a series of missteps — financial, technical and managerial — that led to the troubles.
Politics made things worse. To avoid giving ammunition to Republicans opposed to the project, the administration put off issuing several major rules until after last November’s elections. The Republican-controlled House blocked funds. More than 30 states refused to set up their own exchanges, requiring the federal government to vastly expand its project in unexpected ways.
The stakes rose even higher when Congressional opponents forced a government shutdown in the latest fight over the health care law, which will require most Americans to have health insurance. Administration officials dug in their heels, repeatedly insisting that the project was on track despite evidence to the contrary.
Former Obama White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs suggested on MSNBC on Monday that some people should be fired over the unsatisfactory implementation of the Obamacare exchanges. “When they get it fixed, I hope they fire some people that were in charge of making sure that this thing was supposed to work,” said Gibbs. “We knew there were going to be glitches, right? But these were glitches that go, quite frankly, way beyond the pale of what should be expected.”
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) disagreed, telling MSNBC on Tuesday, “Absolutely not. First of all, when we see the numbers that turned out to sign up on the exchanges, we’re very, very pleased. And, yes, because so many people, millions, you know, wanted to enroll, wanted to get more information, it certainly did cause some glitches in the system.”
Waters later said, “This is not about firing somebody. If you work in a big complex, a big office in government, you will find that there are times when the system will go down, when there are glitches in the system. It happens.”