Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday that eight of 10 people will be able to use the government's health care website to sign up for insurance by the end of the month.
The Obama administration's top health care official was at Florida Technical College in Orlando Tuesday morning making her first of two stops in the state to talk up the Affordable Care Act as fallout of the new law grows. She was visiting Miami's North Shore Medical Center later in the day.
During the Orlando stop, counselors from the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services talked with students about insurance they could purchase on HealthCare.gov. Sebelius and President Barack Obama have repeatedly apologized for a dismal launch of the website, which consumers in 36 states were supposed to use beginning on Oct. 1 to sign up for coverage.
Despite the issues with the website that have stymied the rollout, Sebelius implored students in Orlando to "Come back and see the site again" once it re-opens.
Sebelius had been traveling regularly as the administration has been in emergency mode, trying to fix its health care website and to beat back criticism that could make Americans leery of using it.
"The only way to win back the confidence of consumers and the American people is to have the site working . . . and to reach out to them," Sebelius said.
Sebelius also said a March warning was not ignored, though the website was not fixed before the rollout.
The administration disclosed earlier this week that fewer than 27,000 signups have been completed.
About 300,000 Floridians may receive letters that their present policies will be cancelled because they don't meet the new health care law's minimums.
Sebelius said Tuesday that 3.5 million Floridians, or 23 percent of the state's population, are uninsured and eligible for coverage under the new law and that many of them will find cheaper and better insurance because of it.
But Republicans said that figure is dwarfed by the flood of health policy cancellations issued due to the law.
"While 300,000 Floridians will lose their current health insurance plans even though President Obama said `if you like your insurance plan you can keep it,' Kathleen Sebelius will be covering for the president's blatant dishonesty, attempting to continue to sell this bad law," Republican Party of Florida spokesman Susan Hepworth said in a statement.
Sebelius also spoke with Dan McNaughton, a 22-year-old computer engineering student from East Orlando, who was able to sign up for the ACA in an hour on Oct. 2.
He will continue to pay $70 a month, but next year he will have a better policy under the ACA than the catastrophic insurance he currently has.
Both his parents had cancer, so he wants to have insurance. With the ACA he will have a smaller deductible but doesn't expect to use the plan.
"I see it as an investment," he said. "It's like car insurance."