WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama urged his supporters Monday to help Americans enroll for health insurance by mail, in person and over the phone, seeking to tamp down expectations that the error-riddled HealthCare.gov website will ever be a panacea for the uninsured — even once it’s fixed.
Obama’s appeal for help in spreading the word came as the White House was actively considering more ways to let people sign up, including direct enrollment through insurance companies. Earlier Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said 1 in 5 Americans won’t ever be able to complete their enrollment through the website due to technical glitches, discomfort with using computers or complex personal tax situations.
“It turns out that purchasing insurance for a lot of folks is complicated,” Obama said. “We’ve made sure that we’ve got a strong plan to not just fix the website, which I’m taking responsibility for, but also to make sure there are other ways that people can sign up.”
A self-imposed deadline to have the website running smoothly for the “vast majority” of Americans is looming Nov. 30. Concerned that problems that persist past the deadline will embolden critics to argue Obama’s health care law is an unfixable failure, the administration began Monday to try to pre-empt that argument.
“We always understood that we were going to have to enroll people” by mail, in person or on the phone, Obama said.
Still, the heightened focus on more traditional, time-intensive methods for enrolling served as yet another reminder that the high-tech, streamlined insurance market Obama described as he pitched the law to the nation has not materialized for millions of Americans.
Obama said he was still confident the website will work for most people by the end of the month, and eventually will be the easiest place to shop for insurance. But he added that the website’s failures have fueled misinformation about the broader health care law.
Speaking in subdued tones, Obama displayed little of the vigor he deployed during his re-election campaign last year as he joined an online conference call arranged by Organizing for Action, a private group formed from the remnants of his 2012 campaign to support his second-term agenda.
Organizers said more than 200,000 people joined Monday’s call.
In a bit of irony for a president who’s spent recent weeks dealing with technical difficulties, some seeking to join the call were initially prevented from doing so by technical issues with the web-based platform for the conference call.