President Obama on Tuesday sought to redirect some of the political blame for the botched rollout of the federal health insurance exchange to Republicans, characterizing GOP lawmakers as rooting for the law’s failure.
Addressing a gathering of business executives, Obama acknowledged that the health-care rollout “has been rough, to say the least,” and he lamented the government’s archaic information-technology procurement system.
Obama said that fixes to the HealthCare.gov Web portal are underway and that the exchange will function for a majority of people by the end of November. But the president said staunch opposition from congressional Republicans is inhibiting the law’s implementation.
“One of the problems we’ve had is one side of Capitol Hill is invested in failure,” Obama said at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council meeting in Washington. “We obviously are going to have to remarket and rebrand, and that will be challenging in this political environment.”
The president also voiced frustration with the toxic political atmosphere endangering his signature legislative achievement. He said Washington needs to “break through the stubborn cycle of crisis politics and start working together.”
“You know, people call me a socialist sometimes,” Obama said. “But no, you’ve got to meet real socialists. You’ll have a sense of what a socialist is.”
Obama’s comments came after the administration official who oversaw the technical development of the federal health insurance marketplace testified before Congress that 30 to 40 percent of the overall project has yet to be completed.
Speaking before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Henry Chao, deputy chief information officer at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said the agency is still working on a number of “back office” aspects of the project, including a system to send payments to insurance companies.
Parts of the project that users see — notably, HealthCare.gov — are 100 percent finished, he said. But he said accounting and payment systems still need to be completed.
Obama, at the business leaders event, acknowledged that he and his administration “underestimated the complexities of building out a Web site that needed to work the way it should,” saying the government’s IT procurement process is “not very efficient.”
There’s probably no bigger gap between the private sector and the public sector than IT,” Obama said. “What we probably needed to do on the front end was to blow up how we procure for IT, especially on a system this complicated. We did not do that successfully.”
The payment system that Chao said has yet to be finished relates to the government subsidies that many low- and middle-income people will receive to help them buy insurance on the state and federal Web sites. In most cases, subsidies will be paid directly to the insurers. People who get the subsidies will simply pay the discounted premiums.
Also incomplete are a component that ensures that the marketplaces and the insurers have accurate, matching information about enrollments, and a system that makes payments to insurers that attract high-risk patients. These systems must be in place by January, officials have said.
Author: Philip Rucker and Sandhya Somashekhar
Source : www.washingtonpost.com