Obama Shifts: 'We've Always Understood' That Enrolling by Website Isn't for Everyone

By Susan Jones | November 19, 2013 | 7:44 AM EST

President Barack Obama at his Nov. 14, 2013 news conference on Obamacare rollout. (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - "It turns out that purchasing insurance, for a lot of folks, is complicated," Obama told his supporters in a Monday night in an online conference call.

“What I want to do is make sure everybody on the phone call understands, we’ve always understood that we’re going to have enroll people by mail, we’re going to have to enroll people on the phone, we’re going to have to enroll people in person,” he said.

Obama said his administration has a "strong plan" in place, not only to "fix the website," but also to "make sure there are other ways that people can sign up."

Earlier on Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the White House may let people sign up for Obamacare directly through the insurance companies.

"I certainly wouldn't rule that out," Carney said. "It's something that we've talked about and are working on. We're interested in engaging or opening as many channels for enrollment as possible because the goal here is, again, not to have the best possible website -- and we're far from that.

"The website come December 1st will be vastly improved but will still need improvements," Carney admitted. And we're going to keep working on that day by day to make it as effective as possible. And in the meantime, and beyond the meantime, we will make sure that there are other channels available for Americans to find out the universe of options available to them and then to make some choices about what kind of insurance coverage suits them best."

Carney repeated that "we will not have a perfect website," but he said the goal is "to make it as functional as possible."

The Obama administration has set a Nov. 30 deadline to have the website functioning for most people. "It’s gotten a lot better over the last few weeks than it was on the first day, but we’re working 24/7 to get it working for the vast majority of Americans in a smooth, consistent way," President Obama said at his Nov. 14 news conference.

Jay Carney told reporters on Monday that "two out of 10" people who go on the website won't be able to enroll that way, either because of technical difficulties,  discomfort with using the computer, or because a "complex" personal or family situation.

"So, that's why we've been pursuing the other channels which existed even before the October 1 launch, and were always part of this, because we knew that these populations existed, but why we beefed them up as we've had trouble with the website," Carney said.

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the Obama administration was told last March that the online enrollment system was "fraught with risks."

According to the newspaper, "The analysis by McKinsey & Co. foreshadowed many of the problems that have dogged HealthCare.gov since its rollout, including the facts that the call-in centers would not work properly if the online system was malfunctioning and that insufficient testing would make it difficult to fix problems after the launch."

The report was provided to The Washington Post by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Associated Press reported on Monday that the Obama administration is promoting other ways to enroll in Obamacare to "pre-empt" criticism that is sure to come when the website still doesn't work as intended on Nov. 30.

According to AP: "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."

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