But unlike those campaigns—in which his team could simply ask “who are the best folks out there” and then engage them to improve and refine a system to achieve a goal—the IT system for the federal government faces layers of bureaucracy and a host of laws and regulations, the president said. And those challenges, he added, explain why federal IT programs are over-budget and behind schedule.
Obama accepted the blame for knowing the federal government has not been good about its IT programs in the past and not doing something about it before HealthCare.gov opened for business six weeks ago.
“Two years ago, as we were thinking about this, we might have done more to make sure that we were breaking the mold of how we were going to be setting this up,” the president said. “But that doesn't help us now. We've got to move forward.”
Meanwhile, the president said the troubled Web portal where consumers can shop for private health plans is getting better every day, and promised that the majority of users will see an even better website by the end of the month—as administration officials have promised for weeks.
“I think it's not possible for me to guarantee that 100% of the people, 100% of the time, going on this website, will have a perfectly seamless, smooth experience,” Obama said. “We're going to have to continue to improve it, even after Nov. 30-Dec. 1, but the majority of people who use it will be able to see it operate the way it was supposed to.”
He also said that while technology has been part of the problem with HealthCare.gov, it's not the only area that needs fixing. The president said his administration also underestimated the difficulties consumers would face in shopping for a host of plan options with a range of benefits and costs, as well as the additional step of applying for tax subsidies.
That's why, Obama said, his administration is examining how it can streamline the application process in addition to upgrading the hardware and software to fix the IT glitches.
Follow Jessica Zigmond on Twitter: @MHjzigmond