Obama Responds to Issues With Federal Healthcare Website

The president explains what the government is doing to help make the affordable care act a success.
3:00 | 10/21/13

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Transcript for Obama Responds to Issues With Federal Healthcare Website
This is a special room. Hello I'm Dan company look at this ABC news digital special report three weeks after it was rolled out on the dark clouds of a government shutdown. Obama care is finally taking center stage the -- the early reviews have not been positive a slow bug ridden web site. Has made it difficult for many to enroll -- possible in -- for others. So today President Obama isn't -- plans to fix the site and -- out other ways for Americans to register for coverage. We are waiting his announcement in science at the White House Rose Garden this afternoon but before we do that I wanna go to ABC's Mary Bruce who's standing by. -- Time just went to -- -- -- are we expecting the president to announce today. Again this is. Really all about damage control the president is going to come out and try and make sort of a broader effort to show that the administration. Is taking steps to try and fix what they -- these glitches the president's gonna come out and say that these problems are unacceptable. And announced steps that his administration seeking to fix them. Now the Department of Health and Human Services announced yesterday that they're bringing in a bunch of inside and outside excerpts experts excuse me to try and look at some of these problems fix some of these problems going forward but the president will also remind the American public today. Of the important underlying goal here which of course is to help uninsured Americans get coverage so while they are meeting head on that they are having these problems we expect -- will also. Trying to underscore the important work that is -- play here. And of course we are seeing the president there -- by some consumers and pharmacists others that. The White House -- -- has benefited from the Affordable Care Act he's about the issues at the podium so let's. Go listen to. Access -- the new health care options I had applied to three private insurance companies only to be rejected due to preexisting health conditions. I am too young for Medicare but I'm too old not to have some health issues. I was able to find a policy I am thrilled with saving a 150 dollars a month and much lower deductibles than my previous policy that I held -- my small business. I'm here today to encourage other people like me who needs access to quality affordable. Insurance and to tell them to have patience for such a new system. Without this ability to get this insurance I know that a single hospital stay could have bankrupted me and my business. Thank you all. And I am now honor to introduce the president of the United States. Thank -- everybody. -- thank you Janice. And thanks to everybody here four. Coming on this beautiful day welcomed the White House. About three weeks ago as the federal government shut down. The affordable care act's health insurance marketplace is open for business across the country. Well we've now gotten the government back open for the American people. And today I want to talk about how we're gonna get the marketplace is running at full steam as well. And I'm joined today by folks who -- -- benefited from the Affordable Care Act already. Or for helping their fellow citizens learn about what this law means for them and how they can get -- Of course you've probably heard that health care dot gov. The new web site where people can apply for health insurance and browse and buy affordable plans in most states. Hasn't worked as smoothly as Louis -- work. The number of people who visited the site has been overwhelming. Which is aggravated some of these underlying problems. Despite all that. Thousands of people are signing up and saving money as we speak. Many Americans with a preexisting condition -- debt. Are discovering that they can finally get health insurance like everybody else. So today I want to speak to every American who's looking. To get affordable health insurance. I want you know what's available to you. And why it may be a good deal for you. And for those who've had some problems with the website I want to tell you what we're doing to make it work better. And how you can sign up to get covered in other ways. But before I do that. Let me remind everybody that the Affordable Care Act. Is not just a web site. It's much more. For the vast majority of Americans for 85% of Americans who already have health insurance through your employer or Medicare or Medicaid. You don't need to sign up for coverage through a web site and all you -- got coverage. What be Affordable Care Act does for you is to provide you would -- benefits and protections. That had been in place for some time. You may not know what. -- -- benefiting from these provisions in the law. For example because -- Affordable Care Act young people like Desmond Jennings. And just go -- all day and Ezra sell up. All of whom are here today they've been able to stay on their parents' plans until they're 26. Millions of other young people are currently benefiting that from that part of the law. Another -- Affordable Care Act is providing seniors -- deeper discounts on their prescription medicine. Billions of dollars have been saved by seniors already. That's part of the law tardy in place. It's happening right now. Already because of the Affordable Care Act. Preventive care like mammograms and birth control. Our -- Through your imports that's part of this -- So -- a wide range of consumer protections and benefits. That you already have if you've got health insurance you may not have noticed him but you've got to. And they're not going anywhere and they're not dependent on web site. Here's another thing that be Affordable Care Act -- in states where governors and legislatures. Have wisely allowed it. The Affordable Care Act provides the opportunity for many Americans to get covered under Medicaid for the first time. -- an organ for example. That's helped cut the number of uninsured people by 10%. Just in the last three weeks think about that that's 56000. More Americans. Who now have health -- That doesn't depend on a website. If your one be 15% of Americans who don't have health insurance. Either because you can't afford it or because your employer doesn't offer. Four because. You're a small businessperson you have to go out on the individual market buy it on her own -- is just too expensive. October 1 was unimportant date. That's when we opened. The new marketplaces. Where people without health insurance or who can't afford health insurance or who are part of a group plan. Can finally start getting affordable coverage. And the idea is simple. By enrolling in what we're calling these marketplaces. You become part of a big group plan. As if you're working for big -- A statewide group plan that spreads risk between sick people in healthy people. Between young and old. And then bargains on your behalf for the best deal on health care. Well we've done is essentially created competition where there wasn't competition before we created these big group plans and now insurers. Are really interest didn't -- your business. And so insurers have created new health -- plans with more choices. To be made available through these marketplaces and as a result. Of this choice in this competition. Prices have come down. When you add the new tax credits. That many people are eligible for through the law and the prices come down even further. So one study shows that through new options created by the Affordable Care Act nearly six in ten uninsured Americans. We'll find that they can get covered for less than a hundred dollars a month. Think about that. Through the marketplace as you can get held insurance. For what. May be the equivalent here cellphone bill. Or your cable bill. And that's a good deal. So the fact here's the product. Of the Affordable Care Act for people without health insurance is. -- health insurance that's affordable. And that product is working its -- -- And it turns out there's a massive demand for. So far the national website -- health -- dot gov has been visited nearly twenty million times. Forty million times. And there's. Great demanded the state level as well it's all there bunch of states that are running their -- marketplace. We know that nearly 13 of the people applying in Connecticut and Maryland. For example are under 35 years old they understand. That making get a good deal at low costs. Have the security of health care. And this is not just for. Old folks like me that everybody. Needs good quality -- insurance. And all told more than half a million consumers across the country have successfully submitted applications. Through federal and state marketplaces. And many of those applications aren't just for individuals it's further entire families. So even more people are are -- looking to potentially take advantage. High quality affordable insurance that is provided. Through the affordable care. So let me -- let me just recap here. The product is go to the health insurance that's being provided is good it's high quality. And it's affordable. People can save money. Significant money. By getting insurance. That's being provided through these marketplaces and we know that -- demand is there. People are rushing to see. What's -- And those who've already had a chance general. Are thrilled with the result. Every day people who were stuck with sky high premiums because of preexisting conditions. Are getting affordable insurance for the first time or finding. Against them but -- save a lot of money. Every day women are finally buying covers -- doesn't charge them higher premiums than men for the same care. Every. Everyday people are discovering that new health insurance plans have to cover maternity care. Mental healthcare. Free preventive care. -- you just sort Genesis story she owns her own small business. She recently became the first woman enroll in coverage through Delaware's exchange. And it stroke it took her future rights. But it was worth it. After being turned down for insurance three times due to minor preexisting conditions. So now shall be covered shall save -- 150 bucks a month. And she won't have to worry that one illness or accident will cost her her business that she's worked so hard to bill. And Janice is not -- I recently received a letter. From a woman named Jessica stand just -- -- in Washington State here's what she wrote. I am a single mom. No child support. Self employed. And I haven't had insurance for fifteen years because it's too expensive. My son has ADHD. And requires regular doctor visits and his -- alone cost 250 dollars per month. I've had an ongoing -- the tendinitis problem due to my a lot of work. But I haven't had traded. Now finally. We get. To have coverage because of -- AC 8469. Dollars per month. I was crying the other day when I signed up so much stress lifted. Now that. Is not on typical for a lot of folks like Jessica. Who have been struggling without health insurance. That's what -- Affordable Care Act is all about. The point is the essence of the law the help. And rallies -- technical difficulties there from the White House if we are able to reestablish that we will take back down there. Let's go problem has been. That the web site that's supposed to make it easy to apply for and purchase the insurance. Is not working the way it should for everybody. There's no sugar coating it. The web site has been too slow people have been getting stuck during the application process. And I think it's fair to say that nobody is more frustrated by that that I. Because precisely because the product is good I want the cash registers to work. I want -- the checkout lines to be -- So I want people to be able to get this great product. And there's no excuse for the problems. And it's these -- are getting fixed. But while we're working out the kinks in the system I want everybody to understand the nature of the problem. First ball even with all the problems -- healthcare dot gov the website is still working for a lot of people. -- not as quick or -- or consistent as we want. And although many of these folks have found the bedroom wait longer than they wanted once they complete the process. They're very happy with the deal that's available to. Just like Genesis. Second. I want -- -- -- remember that were only three weeks into a six month open enrollment period. When you can buy these new plant. Keep in mind be insurance doesn't start until January 1. At the earliest. That the insurance -- -- and no one who decides to purchase a plan has to pay -- first premium until December 15. And unlike the day after Thanksgiving sales for the latest PlayStation -- flat screen TV -- The insurance plans don't run out. -- -- -- -- They'll be available through the marketplace. Throughout the open enrollment period the prices that insurers have set will not change. So everybody who wants insurance through the marketplace. Will get insurance period. Everybody. Who wants insurance through the marketplace will get insurance. -- We are doing everything. We can't possibly do. To get the web sites working better faster soon. We've got people working overtime 447. To boost capacity and address the problems. Experts from some of America's top private sector tech companies. Who by the way of seeing things like this happen before. They want it to work they're reaching out there offering to send help. We've had some the best I T town in the entire country joined the team and -- -- -- a text search to fix the problem. And we are confident that we will get all the problems -- Number four. While the web site will ultimately be the easiest way to buy insurance through the marketplace. It isn't the only way. I want to emphasize this. Even as we redouble our efforts to get the site working as well as its -- to. We're also redoubling our efforts to make sure you can still buy the same quality affordable insurance plans. Available on the marketplace. The old -- way. Offline. Either over the phone foreign person. And by the way there a lot of people who want to take advantage of this -- more comfortable working. On the phone anyway or in person. So let me go through. The specifics as to how you can do that if you're having problems with a website or you just prefer dealing when a person. Yesterday we updated the web site's home based -- more information about the other avenues to enroll. In a -- health care until the online option works for everybody. So you'll find information about how to talk to a specialist. Who can help you -- over the phone. Or to receive a downloadable application you can fill out yourself and mail -- We've also added more staff to the call centers where you can apply for insurance over the -- -- thirty. They've been working. But. A lot of people. Have decided first to go the web -- but keep in mind these call centers are already up and running. And you can get your questions answered by real people 24 hours a day in a 150 different languages. The phone number for these call centers is 1800. 3182596. I want a repeat that 1803182596. Wait times have averaged less than one minute so far on the call centers. Although I admit that the wait times bribe my go up a little bit now that I've read the number allowed on national television. But -- the point is the call senators. Are available. You can talk to some -- directly -- can walk you through the application process. And I guarantee of one thing's worth the wait it's the safety and security of health care that you can afford. Or the amount of money that you can save. -- buying health insurance -- the marketplace. Once you get on the phone where they train represented -- it usually takes about 25 minutes for. An individual to apply for coverage. About 45 minutes for -- family. Once you apply for coverage you'll be contacted by mail. By email or postal mail about your coverage status. -- you don't have to just go through the phone you can also apply in person. With the help of local navigators. These people specially trained to help you sign up for health care and they exist all across the country. Or you can go to community health centers and hospitals. Just visit local help dot health -- dot gov. To find out where in your area you can get help and apply for insurance in person. And finally if -- already tried to apply through the website and you've been stuck. Somewhere along the way do not work. In the coming weeks we will contact you directly. Personally where they concrete recommendation. For how you can complete your application. Shop for coverage. Pick a plan that meets your needs and get covered once and for all. So here's the bottom line. The product. To help insurance. Is good. The prices. Are -- It is a good deal. People don't just want it they're showing up to buy it. Nobody's -- -- me about -- the website is working as well that should. Which means. It's gonna get fixed. And. And in the meantime you can bypass the web site. And apply by phone or person. So don't let problems with a website deter you from signing up. Or signing your family up. Or showing your friends how to sign up. Because it is worth but. It will save you money. If you don't have health insurance if you've got a pre existing commission it will save you money and we'll give you the security. That your family needs. In fact even -- website issues. We've actually made the overall process of buying insurance through the marketplace. A lot smoother and easier. Then the old way of buying insurance on your own. -- the challenge here is is that. A lot of people may not remember what it's like to buy insurance. The traditional way. The way we set it up there are no more absurdly long application forms. There's no medical history questionnaire -- goes on for pages and pages. There's no more getting denied because you've had a preexisting condition. Instead of contacting a bunch of different sure as one wants one at a time which is what Janice and a lot of people were shopping on the individual market for up insurance had to do. There's one single place you can go shop and compare plans. That have to compete for your business. There's one single phone number you can call for help. And once the kinks in the web site have been ironed out it will be even smaller. And even easier. But in the meantime we will help you sign up. Because consumers want to buy this product and insurance companies want -- solitary. Let me close by addressing some of the politics that swirled around the affordable care. I recognize that the Republican Party has made blocking the Affordable Care Act its signature policy idea. Sometimes it seems to be the one thing that unifies the party these days. In fact. There -- want to shut down the government. And potentially harm the global economy. To try to get a repeal. And I'm sure that given the problems with a website so far. They're going to be it look and go after it even harder. And let's admit it with a website not working as well as that. Needs to work. The makes a lot of supporters nervous because they know how it's been. Subject to so much attack before more -- generally. But I disorder or minor -- we did not waves this long and contentious battle. Just around web site. That's not what this was about. We waves this battle to make sure that millions of Americans in the wealthiest nation on earth. Finally have the same chance to get the same security of affordable quality health care as anybody else. That's what that's about. And be Affordable Care Act. Has -- that. People can now get good insurance. People -- preexisting conditions can now afford insurance. The boat launch of this website proves anything it's that people across the country don't just need that security they want that secured. They want it. And in the meantime I've said many times I am willing to work with anyone. On any idea. To make this small perform even better. But it's time for folks to stop rooting for its failure. That's hard working middle class families are rooting for its success. And if the product is good there -- to be patient. I got a letter last week from a self employed man named John -- And -- -- Pennsylvania. He used. The new marketplace to get himself and his wife covered and save a lot of money and and here's what he said. Because it pretty much sums up my message today. Yes the web site released bank for the first week. But instead of paying sixteen -- hundred dollars per month. For a group insurance plan. We have it planned it will only cost us 692. Dollars a month -- savings of 900 dollars per month. John said that while he saw what he saw what they'd be pain. He turned to his wife and told her. We might just pull through we could afford this. And John eventually predicted. That. Web site will work like a -- -- If you as frustrated by the web site. But he still low left frustrated once -- found out that he was -- I never bucks a month. On a self insurance. And John's right. The web sites gonna get fixed. And the law works. That's why we fought so hard to pass this law to save. Folks like John Money. To give people who don't have health insurance the chance to get a for the first time to lift. From the American people the crushing burden of on affordable health care. To free families from. The pervasive fear. That one ailments. I got. -- -- that does happen when I talked to law. Good -- by the way. Where was it. But that's always our goal to free families from the pervasive fear the one illness or one injury might cost you everything. He dedicated a lifetime to build. Our goal has always been to declare that in this country the security of health care is not a privilege for fortunate few. It's a right for all. To enjoy. That's -- be affordable care it's -- about. That's its promise. And I intend to deliver on their problems. Thank you very much -- by what. President Obama they're discussing the issues with health care dot as you heard the president -- himself. Nobody is matter than me the web site is in good. That coming out as a big public push along with. An effort. To get the word out that those open Roland moments for the insurance exchange our open have been ongoing since October 1. -- is team is doing what they can't fix the problem along with other ways Americans on the cover and I want to bring an ABC news chief health and medical correspondent. Doctor Richard mr. Obama fees vary -- and though the White House and Mary we had a -- -- the headline that was just made right there it during that press conference that when a touchy about that would happen. I just therapy and a woman starting to -- actually happens quite abated some of -- events he did speak a little bit longer than he was expected here today. The president -- remind people defend their needs and move around but overall as you mentioned this event aimed at trying to get ahead of some of that. Republican criticism that the White House is now receiving because of this completely botched rollout the president touting that the overall benefits of health care that this product is a good product and essentially asking Americans to hang in there that they will work out these glitches but as you mentioned he is now finally admitting head on -- -- raising some serious problems. The senate doctor that's a -- we've discussed the economic -- the text essentially that the president -- to address that his team is working right now. What kind of effects could decide issues actually haven't patients and doctors well you know I think the president meeting -- big move to to redefine and and clarify what the Affordable Care Act he is about. It's really about providing health care for millions of people who have been having. Did the website is it is a way for people to access that care. But he was he was dating many of the things that have already taken place around the Affordable Care Act which have impacted on doctors and and on patients. Children with preexisting conditions for the past three years have not been able to be denied insurance children under 26 have been able to stay on their parents' policies. And now at the Affordable Care Act. People who have preexisting medical conditions cannot be denied insurance. The way that they get that insurance is is -- problem now because the roll out of the website has not gone well. And he made it clear that there are other ways using phone using downloaded applications and even going in person are ways that people can access their their choices for for insurance. In till the website is is is fully functioning although -- continued to it to operate. And again it's three weeks -- the beginning of this open enrollment but it continues on. Four for awhile. That's right -- you have until December 15 to enroll if your insurance is gonna start -- -- first. But you have a full six months to enroll before there would be any penalty -- for not being insured. The other point is that 85%. Of people had absolutely nothing to do right now it's only people who don't have health insurance. Who have to worry about what will I get my insurance in time. In you do have six months to accomplish that. Hopefully these these problems will we will be -- fixed long before that. All right it's obviously married the president almost had a a two prong approach dates today's. -- rose -- -- announcement. In a fact of explaining what the details of the Affordable Care Act is and also to talk about the fact this registration on the they've been -- so. Who wants his team of folks at they're bringing him to fix the site. Well that a Department of Health and Human Services announced yesterday that there. Essentially starting what they call a text surge bringing a lot of inside and outside experts to help. Six all of these glitches smooth out some of these problems they haven't said yet so who exactly those people are. Now keep in mind Bob this is a huge technological undertaking -- certainly are a lot of private companies and in their country a lot of banks and other tech companies that have. Essentially tried to do similar kinds of efforts so suspect they may be turning to some of those companies of those -- -- to tap their expertise going forward. And doctor -- -- if they can't fix this if they cannot execute the enrollment properly how to more people that would -- affordable access -- it's really millions. -- -- some of the web sites are run by states and so we're hearing reports out of California out of argued that things are going. Much more smoothly than they are on the on the federal web site. But but many states were were very opposed to the Affordable Care Act they've not implemented there -- their own sites. And so all of those people are -- are required to go to -- to the federal site. It's not clear exactly how many million people will will be covered by this I've heard tens of millions I've seen other. -- -- seven million people that will be included. And some of the benefits that are included on this is obviously children being allowed to stay and their parents -- closing the donut -- the so called donut hole for seniors. Those benefits being delivered in a timely way. Well -- they are for those people who who have insurance. You know as a pediatrician I -- that already -- children who are getting insurance who didn't have that have that before. And the coverage of preventive services mammograms birth control. Those are things that many people did not have an insurance than -- are now required to be covered in everyone's plants. So there are a lot of benefits there did this idea that that the Affordable Care Act launched on October 1 with the web site. Is it is really a little smoke and mirrors and mayor before that you -- the president came out of the shut down talking about immigration reform -- now. He is again talking about he is key piece of legislation the Affordable Care Act fair to say this is not exactly how he had hoped to spend this Monday morning. I think that's pretty fair section one of the big ironies all of this is that a lot of the coverage of this role I was sort of overshadowed by the government shutdown in the threat to default. Now course of that problem has been solved there's a lot more public attention on all of this. But of course keep in mind that -- public debate. Was really centered on obamacare and now we're seeing some of these problems with this rollout but that's part of what the administration is trying to -- -- to get ahead of some of that criticism. To come on in face head on some of these technical problems that they're facing. And doctor -- let me ask you that from obviously from a from a a medical provider point of view. Health and human services secretary Kathleen Sebelius is certainly -- some criticism because the rollout of this but what does her perception in the medical community. Well you know I I can't speak for the medical community -- I had the opportunity to work very closely with her when -- -- the acting director of of the CDC. And think very highly of her I also had a lot of experience at the CDC trying to create software products for for the programs I was involved in and and none of those went went smoothly so -- I'm not surprised that the launch has has not gone well I'm disappointed that it's it's gone as poorly as as it has. All right anything -- just less -- that the president had indicated to some of the detail as they're going to be working -- to improve this site have they give us a time. I'm minor a timeframe of when those changes might happen. Think very good point pay attention to the things you did not hear the president did not outline any timeline for when this would be fixed. They did not detail what exactly the problems were that went wrong where this went wrong who was responsible all big questions that have still yet to be answered. Questions a lot of people -- waiting to see Barry -- the White House doctor Richard Esther thank you both so much for that of course we have a complete report on abcnews.com. And I'm Dan Cutler New York with this ABC news digital special report.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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