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Affordable Care Act

Obama: 'Nobody's Madder Than Me'

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President Barack Obama said Monday that "nobody's madder than me" about the problems infesting Healthcare.gov, the enrollment website for plans through the Affordable Care Act.

But he added with a chuckle, "That means it's going to get fixed."

In the meantime, he said, Americans can pick up the phone. There are operators waiting to walk Americans through the sign-up process at the Health Insurance Marketplace's toll-free line, 800-318-2596.

Another good alternative, he said, is to seek out a navigator or certified enrollment specialist at a community health center. (See Florida Association of Community Health Centers, fachc.org.)

"The Affordable Care Act is about much more than a website," Obama said.  "If this rollout proves anything, people across this country don't just need this security, they want it."

He added, "People want to buy this product, and insurers want to sell it."

The problems at Healthcare.gov affect only about 15 percent of Americans, perhaps 20 percent in Florida -- those who have to buy their own coverage because they do not get it through an employer or government program. A majority of Floridians who enroll in the Marketplace are likely to qualify for subsidized premiums, federal officials say.

Critics say the White House erred by holding off on instructions to contractors too long for political reasons. They also say it would have been best to have a test period before opening the site to the public, because the demand was so great it crashed.

But it has become clear that more than an overload of customers is to blame, giving the administration a black eye and fodder for political opponents.  Some Republicans have called for the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, but others in the GOP say that is premature.

Obama said that website coding experts from the public and private sectors have flocked to help correct the problems that have prevented visitors to Healthcare.gov from completing applications and buying a plan for 2014. The open enrollment period lasts through March; enrollment must occur by Dec. 15 to buy a policy to take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. Some have called for a postponement, but Obama did not raise that possibility.

He said a lot of people who are complaining about the complications of this enrollment process might not remember how much of a hassle it is to buy individual coverage.  "No more absurdly long applications. No more medical history questionnaire, no more getting denied because you've had a preexisting condition," he said.

The application process for the Marketplace is much easier than that, he said, and "once the kinks in the website have been ironed out, it will be even easier."

Alluding to the Republican Party's continued attacks on the Affordable Care Act, of which the Marketplace is one part, Obama said, "It's time for folks to stop rooting for its failure because hardworking middle class families are rooting for its success."

As if on cue, minutes later Florida's Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio sent out a press release that said: "It is clear the ObamaCare rollout has been a disaster that has further eroded the American people's basic confidence in the federal government's ability to keep basic promises."  Rubio warned people who use the website to take careful notes about their unsuccessful enrollment attempts "to protect themselves from potential fraud, double billing, and penalties once the mandate is enforced."