So President Barack Obama may be having his worst week--scratch that--worst month ever.
After a tense war of words with Republicans over healthcare reform that led to a 16-day government shutdown in October, the media began to turn its attention to the messy launch of HealthCare.gov, the online portal that provides individuals with access to the new health plans and exchanges.
The site launched Oct. 1--the same day 800,000 federal government employees were first told to stay home because the government wouldn't open for business. The glitches and technical issues were apparent from day one with delays and server crashes blamed on consumers overwhelming computer systems.
But the complaints kept on coming. From the beginning, there was no clear description of the Affordable Care Act on the site or why a person should enroll. Prompts were confusing. The site wasn't functional. Forms took too long to load. Then we learned that only six people enrolled in health plans through the web portal on its first day of operation.
In the 39 days since that fateful day, details have emerged about the chaos behind the scenes leading to the launch of the botched site and how much Obama knew about it. During testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius blamed contractors for the rocky launch. And Marilyn Tavenner, administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency which built the online portal, revealed that she allowed HealthCare.gov to launch without final security testing.
And though many have called for Sebelius' resignation, so far the only casualty to this mess is Tony Trenkle, who is stepping down Nov. 15 as chief information officer for CMS,
Meanwhile, as the government scrambles to fix the site so it's fully operational by the end of this month, fears surfaced that the lack of testing on the site may lead to security risks and privacy breaches. It's a legitimate concern considering a North Carolina man discovered downloadable eligibility letters addressed to individuals from another state when he signed on to evaluate his insurance options.
Then there is the matter of millions of Americans losing their health insurance because their previously purchased plans don't meet the basic standards required by law after 2014. Despite the President's assurances while touting the merits of the law that no one would lose their insurance, news reports have surfaced that the administration knew for at least three years that 40 percent to 67 percent of Americans in the individual market would lose their insurance plans after passage of the Affordable Care Act
Last night in an interview with NBC News, Obama apologized to Americans getting cancellation letters. "I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me," he said, adding the administration is working to fix "some of the holes and gaps" in the law that led to the cancellations.
But is the apology enough to satisfy the growing number of unhappy Americans? It certainly won't be enough for the GOP, who have been gunning for healthcare reform since its passage. And given all that's happened in the last month, it may not be enough even for supporters of healthcare reform. --Ilene (@FierceHealth)
Deal reached: Government to reopen, avoid default--for now
5 design flaws of HealthCare.gov
White House admits lower-than-expected enrollment
HealthCare.gov website security was at 'high risk' before launching
HealthCare.gov: Day 38 and woes continue
Political backlash, media blitz follow HealthCare.gov woes
White House knew Americans would lose existing health insurance
Obama apologizes to Americans whose insurance plans have been cancelled