President Barack Obama says he had no idea how bad the problems were with the online insurance marketplace Healthcare.gov even a week after launch. If he had known, he would not have allowed it to open on October 1st, he said during a press conference today.
"I was not informed directly that the website would not be working the way it was supposed to. Had I been informed, I wouldn't be going out saying, 'Boy, this is going to be great,'" the president told reporters during a White House press briefing. "I'm accused of a lot of things, but I don't think I'm stupid enough to go around saying this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity a week before the website opened if I thought it wasn't going to work."
"We would not have rolled out something knowing that it wasn't going to work the way it was supposed to given all the scrutiny we knew would be on the website."
As late as a week after launch, Obama believed that the problems were not that dire. "The thinking was that these were some glitches that would be fixed with patches, as opposed to some broader systemic issues," he said.
As late as a week after launch, Obama believed the problems were just "glitches"
During investigative hearings held by the Energy and Commerce Committee, Senate Finance Committee, and House Oversight Committee, government officials and contractors repeatedly said that they never considered delaying the launch of the website.
Healthcare.gov opened on October 1st with long wait times, bugs that prevented users from creating accounts or finishing applications, errors in subsidy calculations, security holes, and other issues. Just six people were able to complete applications on the first day and fewer than 27,000 enrolled through the site in the first month.
Obama also suggested that he is still looking for answers as to why the website did not work. "The federal government does a lot of things well, one of the things it does not do well is information technology procurement," he said.
The administration is now working overtime with a reinforced team to resolve the issues so the site will "work smoothly for the vast majority of users" by November 30th.
"We're going to have to continue to improve it even after November 30th."
Obama hedged when asked whether he could guarantee the site would be working by that date.
"I think it's fair to say that the improvement will be marked and noticeable," he said. "The website will work much better on November 30th, December 1st than it worked certainly on October 1st. That's a pretty low bar. It will be working a lot better than it was last week and it will be working a lot better than it was this week. The majority of people that go to the website will see a website that is working the way it is supposed to."
However, the administration will keep working on the site after that deadline, he said. "We're going to have to continue to improve it even after November 30th, December 1st," he said. "But the majority of people that use it will see it operating the way it was supposed to."