Political backlash, media blitz follow HealthCare.gov woes

The best defense is a good offense and that's President Barack Obama's plan this week as he tries to deflect the continuing problems and mounting criticism of his administration's handling of the HealthCare.gov website by focusing on the benefits of healthcare reform and enrollment efforts, budget negotiations and the economy.

Obama stressed during his Saturday briefing that his priority is budget negotiations with Congressional Republicans, The Washington Times reports. And on Wednesday he will travel to Dallas to discuss successful enrollment efforts, highlighting work around the country that is helping Americans prepare for the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, according to Politico 44.

Despite the media blitz, the administration is working on damage control as reports surface on how much Obama knew about the troubled site and the political and technical struggles of translating the 2,000-page Affordable Care Act into reality, The Washington Post reports.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are pushing for the government to take down the HealthCare.gov website until it fixes all the problems, including fears of security risks and privacy breaches. Justin Hadley of North Carolina told The Foundry he discovered an apparent security flaw on HealthCare.gov when he signed on to evaluate his insurance options and found downloadable eligibility letters addressed to individuals from another state. "I was in complete shock," he said.

The flaw came on the heels of a government memo that disclosed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services was concerned a lack of testing on the HealthCare.gov site posed a potentially "high security risk," FierceHealthIT previously reported.

Hadley fears his own personal information is now at risk.

Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) are calling for the administration to take the website offline until it is fully functional, Face the Nation reports. Rogers called the administration's attempts to fix the website while it is running as akin to "trying to change a tire on a car going 70 miles an hour down the expressway."

But some wonder if the ACA rollout was doomed from the start, as the project was hampered by the administration's political sensitivity to Republican hatred of the law, according to the Post investigation.

Although there was money for states to build their own insurance exchanges, the federal government had no money to develop its own exchange and Republicans planned to block any funding attempts, the article said. And U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who says she should take the blame for the website fiasco, couldn't get enough money to keep the people hired to develop the exchanges to work directly under her.

As a result, the work on designing the federal exchange became fragmented, the Post reported.

White House officials say the political sensitivities did not influence the substance or pace of the work. But the Post article states others who were involved in the project say otherwise. As a result, instead of paying attention to the website problems, the administration focused on whether there would be enough insurance plans for sale in the new marketplaces and on whether enough people would enroll.

Despite all the troubles with HealthCare.gov and health insurance exchanges, new polls show the American public's views on the Affordable Care Act remain the same, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

For more:
- read the Washington Post investigative piece
- here's the Washington Times article
- check out Politico 44's article
- read The Foundry's piece
- here's the Face the Nation report