As he was rushing in the tech world's "best and brightest" to fix the badly bungled ObamaCare exchange website, President Obama tried to minimize its importance, claiming that it was a relatively minor problem.
"The Affordable Care Act is not just a website," Obama said at a hastily arranged Rose Garden event Monday. "It's much more." He said the law was providing good insurance and that "prices have come down.
"It's high quality," he said, and "it's affordable." Besides, Obama said, "the website's going to get fixed.
That latter claim may or may not be true, at least not in the next few weeks.
The problems with the federal exchange site — which covers 36 states — don't just involve too many people trying to sign on, or glitches in the sign-up process. Insurance companies report that many of the relatively small number of applications they've received so far had serious flaws — missing or incomplete information, duplicate enrollments, unreadable files, etc.
Tech experts say serious design flaws in the site could take weeks or months to resolve, according to the New York Times. Some experts told USA Today last week that the site used 10-year-old technology and that it might require a complete overhaul before it works right.
Come Back In A Month
So far, the administration has refused to release data on how many people have actually enrolled through the exchange. Consumer Reports says that while nearly 10 million people tried to register in the first week, only 271,000 were able to create an account. The magazine is telling its readers to avoid the site for at least a month.
While Obama tries to minimize the importance of the website problems, industry officials say they could jeopardize the ability of some to get coverage before the year starts, if they're not fixed in time.
But even if the website problems are eventually fixed, much of the rest of the law isn't living up to Obama's promises, either.
Obama claims, for example, that the ObamaCare exchange glitches don't matter to 85% of Americans who already have insurance and who, he says, are already benefiting from the law's new mandates.
That's not entirely true. Previously insured workers across the country have lost their jobs or seen their hours cut. IBD has been cataloging companies that specifically cited ObamaCare for making such cutbacks, and the number now exceeds 350, including more than 100 school districts.
Weekly hours for workers in low-wage industries such as lodging and retail have fallen to record lows.
Old Plans, Benefits Scrapped
Companies have also eliminated benefits for part-time workers, spouses and retirees because of ObamaCare. Darden Restaurants (DRI), which operates the Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains, said Monday that about 1,000 part-time workers will no longer be eligible for company plans next year.
Many of those affected will have to go into one of the balky ObamaCare exchanges to regain their coverage.
And while Obama says "prices have come down" because of the law, that's not entirely true, either. In fact, many of the roughly 14 million Americans who currently buy insurance in the individual market are getting cancellation notices because their plans don't comply with ObamaCare mandates, and they're finding the replacement plans cost far more.
A blogger for the left-wing site Daily Kos, for example, complained that he and his wife learned that their premiums next year will nearly double because of ObamaCare.
"I figured if (ObamaCare) saved Americans money, I could go along with it," the blogger wrote. "I don't know what to think now.
The San Francisco Chronicle cites a couple who learned that Kaiser Permanente was cancelling their $7,200-a-year plan, and that a replacement with the same $5,000 deductible would cost more than twice as much.
A study by the Heritage Foundation found that, before factoring in subsidies, ObamaCare will cause average premiums for 27-year-olds in 45 states to climb by as much as 252%. And if not enough young, healthy people sign up, ObamaCare premiums will likely spiral even higher next year. The health exchange website woes make it more likely that millennials won't go through the hassle.
Unions, too, say that even though their members already have insurance, ObamaCare will hurt, not help them.
Every major union, in fact, has bitterly attacked the law, saying it will harm worker benefits and cost jobs.
And at press time on Monday, 30,000 unionized grocery workers in Washington state planned to go on strike after several supermarket chains announced plans to drop health benefits for part-time workers who clock in fewer than 30 hours a week, citing ObamaCare as the reason.