The Obama administration's rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been an "unacceptable" failure that's disappointed supporters and invigorated critics, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) charged Tuesday.
"This was not done the way it should have been done. Period," he said during a news conference in the Capitol.
"But the implementation of that Act in terms of the web access and capabilities is deeply disappointing and unacceptable," he added. "I would urge the administration, as I know they are doing, to take every effort to make sure the website is user-friendly, responsive and effective."
Designed to enroll the uninsured into private plans, the web-based insurance marketplaces are a central component of Obama's 2010 healthcare reform law. But since the federal exchange launched on Oct. 1, technical problems have plagued the system, leading to a steady stream of complaints as users have been kicked off the system or otherwise unable to enroll.
Behind Kathleen Sebelius, who heads the Health and Human Services Department, administration officials had initially blamed the sheer volume of web traffic for the access problems. But as the troubles persisted, Obama on Monday was forced to acknowledge that the exchange website "is not working the way it should for everybody."
"There’s no sugarcoating it," Obama said in a speech at the White House. "The website has been too slow, people have been getting stuck during the application process, and I think it’s fair to say that nobody is more frustrated by that than I am."
The White House has since tapped Jeff Zients, the former acting head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to oversee the administration's efforts to fix the website.
Republican leaders – largely distracted by the budget fight that's consumed most of the month's political oxygen – have pounced on the web problems since the government reopened last Thursday.
“Either the president doesn’t grasp the scale of the law’s failures or he doesn’t believe Americans deserve straight answers,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Monday in response to Obama's speech.
The severity of the problems has led a number of Republicans to call for the resignation of Sebelius – a move Hoyer said is a step too far.
"I certainly believe it's a bad performance," Hoyer said. "I don't know about heads rolling [but] I do know that we've got to get this right."
He added, "I'm sure that if I were a Republican I'd yell and scream about it as well."