Technical difficulties: 'Broken' Obamacare website won't be an easy fix

A pamphlet for the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, sits on a table at a branch of the Metopolitan Family Health network, on October 3, 2013 in Jersey City, N.J.

The registration website for the Affordable Care Act has had its share of problems. Reports of glitches have people doubting the effectiveness of the law. Today, President Obama gave a speech on how these problems will be addressed.

Sarah Kliff reports on health policy for the Washington Post.  She says she’s gotten feedback from people trying to purchase coverage, and they're pretty angry right now.

“I’ve talked to a lot of my readers and folks who are trying to shop for insurance who have tried upwards of 60 times to purchase coverage,” Kliff says.

Kliff says people are waiting for the moment when they can go through the application process, find out if they can get help financially and get to the point where they’re putting down a payment for an insurance plan. 

In his speech today, President Obama argued that while the website is having problems, it is not an inclination of whether or not the law is working:

"But before I do that, let me remind everybody that the Affordable Care Act is not just a website.

It's much more. For the vast majority of Americans -- for 85 percent 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 website at all -- you've already got coverage."

Kliff said the much of the ACA's success rests on the effectiveness of the website, since Healthcare.gov and other state marketplaces are the portals  for enrollment.

"The idea was, 'We weren’t going to have people going into offices and filling out pen and paper and dealing with weeks of  mailing things back and forth,'" Kliff says. "That the website would be a smooth shopping experience. President Obama himself said it would be like shopping on Expedia or Kayak for a plane ticket.

Kliff says that if the insurance aspect of the law is going to work, then the website needs to work as well.  She called the healthcare.gov hotline to see what the experience of trying to purchase insurance was like, and chronicled her experence at the Washington Post's Wonkblog. 

About the author

Lizzie O'Leary is the new host of Marketplace Weekend.

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