More Democrats in Congress raised their voices on Thursday over troubles with the healthcare.gov website, as some urged a delay in the signup deadline for insurance, while others used a House hearing to bash the contractors who developed the site.
“We’ve got problems with this web site,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), whose district sits in the heart of Silicon Valley, as she scoffed at talk that high traffic levels had caused the health insurance portal to crash.
“I think that’s sort of a lame excuse,” Eshoo said sternly.
“Amazon and Ebay don’t crash the week before Christmas, and Pro Flowers doesn’t crash on Valentine’s Day,” Eshoo added.
“These problems need to be fixed,” said Rep. Diane Degette (D-CO). “And these problems need to be fixed fast.”
“I hope it’s as soon as possible,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY).
Outside the hearing room, there were more rumblings in Democratic circles about the law – another signal that some in the party are feeling the heat on the issue.
“I believe that in light of the recent implementation challenges, I agree with bipartisan efforts led by Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson to postpone the insurance penalty for Georgia families,” said Democrat Michelle Nunn, who is running for U.S. Senate.
“The problems surrounding the federal exchange for the Affordable Care Act are absolutely unacceptable,” said Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), who is running for re-election next year.
“I am asking the Administration to extend the open enrollment period by two months, and waive the penalty for the individual mandate for the same period of time, to make up for time that is being lost while the website for the federal exchange is not functioning,” Kagan added.
Another Democrat up for re-election next year also joined Kagan and other Democrats in urging a delay.
“I support extending the enrollment period to give people more time to shop from the 40 competitively priced plans in #LA’s marketplace,” Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) wrote on Twitter.
Kagan and Landrieu joined Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) in asking for extra time to deal with the healthcare.gov web site.
Back in the hearing room on Thursday, it was interesting to watch Democrats mix criticism of Republicans for their opposition to the health law while voicing real concern about what is going on with the health insurance signup process.
“Why are you so confident?” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) asked a top executive of CGI, who repeatedly said that problems on the web site will be fixed.
Like Eshoo, Degette and Engel before him, Waxman alternated between tough words for the GOP while also demanding to know why healthcare.gov has been error-filled.
“Once again here we have our Republican colleagues trying to scare everybody,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), who denounced the hearing as a “monkey court.”
Still, it was another day of cracks in what had been a very united front by Democrats on the Obama health law; how far those cracks go will certainly depend on how well healthcare.gov operates in the weeks ahead.