As with anything new, it was widely predicted that there would be technical glitches during the rollout of the health care exchanges. But since they opened on Oct. 1, there have been so many problems, from slow-loading websites to people getting stuck during the application process, that people are now being encouraged to sign up by phone.
"Nobody's more frustrated by that than I am," President Obama said during remarks delivered from the Rose Garden Monday morning. "There's no excuse for the problems."
Flanked by individuals who've already enrolled in the new exchanges, he said that
"the essence of the law … is working just fine."
He said that he has called for a "tech surge" to bring healthcare.gov up to speed and that the administration has hired "some of the best IT talent in the entire country" to help solve the problems.
“I want the cash registers to work, I want the checkout lines to be smooth and I want people to be able to get this great product,” Obama said. “There’s no excuse for these problems. These problems are getting fixed.”
In the meantime, he added, staffing at the call centers has been beefed up and representatives are available 24 hours a day to answer questions in 150 different languages. The process takes about 25 minutes to apply for coverage for an individual and 45 minutes for a family.
"The phone number for these call centers is 1-800-318-2596," the president said. "Wait times have averaged less than one minute so far on the call centers, although I admit that the wait times probably might go up a little bit now that I've read the number out loud on national television."
According to White House figures, approximately 476,000 people have filed applications through federal and state exchanges. The number of people who've actually enrolled in an exchange, however, is a closely guarded secret and will not be disclosed until mid-November. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that about 7 million people will sign up during the six-month enrollment period.
The problem-plagued rollout was largely overshadowed by the government shutdown that occurred because of Republican efforts to defund the health care law. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says he hasn't given up yet and, despite recriminations from members of his own party, he plans to continue his campaign to derail the Affordable Care Act.
"I would do anything, and will continue to do anything, to stop the train wreck that is Obamacare," Cruz said on ABC's This Week.
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(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)