Reid: 'No excuse' for Obamacare website glitches

WASHINGTON — Sen. Harry Reid on Thursday faulted the Obama administration for problems in the online signups for health insurance, but maintained the flaws will be corrected in time to avoid bigger troubles when benefits take effect early next year.

In a radio interview, the Senate majority leader from Nevada said the Oct. 1 rollout of HealthCare.gov “has not done well.”

“As far as I’m concerned there is no excuse for that,” Reid said on KNPR, the Las Vegas public radio station. “I think the administration should have known how difficult it was going to be to have 35 million or 40 million people to suddenly hook up to a place to go on the Internet.

“But we’re working on that,” he said, “and I think in the reasonable future we will be able to start signing people up on the Internet” in addition to enrollments that can be done in person and over the phone.

“If someone wants to sign up for Obamacare today they can go down to the Social Security office and sign up there,” Reid said. “If they want to make a phone call they have to wait two seconds and someone will help them sign up for one of the health exchanges, explain it all to them.”

Asked if the fixes online would be made in time to avoid “major embarrassment” when coverage is set to go live early in 2014, Reid said, “The answer is clearly yes.”

Reid and other Democratic leaders initially attributed the difficulties people are encountering on HealthCare.gov to the site’s popularity, saying crashes were due to system overloads. But at a House hearing on Thursday, the project’s leading contractors said the government did not thoroughly test the complex system before it went live.

Reid said Thursday some of the spotlight on HealthCare.gov problems is politically motivated.

He maintained Republicans are attempting to highlight flaws as part of a new strategy to attack Obamacare after failing in repeated attempts to kill or roll back the landmark health care law.

“Now they said we have a new deal,” Reid said. “(They say) what we are going to do is hold a bunch of hearings and try to embarrass the president this way. It would seem to me it would be much more logical and rational if there is a problem they see with this legislation, let’s work together to try to fix it.”

“All their yelling and screaming about Obamacare, what is their alternative?” Reid said. “They don’t have one. That is the sad part about all this.”

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.