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Baucus Says He's Confident Health Exchange Operations Will Improve

By Emily Ethridge, CQ Roll Call

October 15, 2013 -- A top Democratic senator and the Obama administration voiced confidence last week that the online systems for the health care law's exchanges would improve, despite continued problems with consumers enrolling on the websites.

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus said he has "a lot of confidence" that the system will eventually work. He noted he had talked to people in the public and private sector and that "because of the people I've been talking with, I have confidence."

Baucus, D-Mont., in widely publicized comments predicted earlier this year that the administration's failure to educate people about the overhaul (PL 111-148, PL 111-152) could lead to "a huge train wreck."

Many Republicans are saying that train wreck is now in progress, with consumers across the country facing long wait times and technical difficulties visiting the health care law's website.

So far two Republicans, Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas and Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana, have called for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to resign because of the website problems.

"Had investors launching a private company devoted even a fraction of the time and treasure that's been spent on Obamacare, people would have been fired by now," said Fleming in a statement. "Taxpayers should not have to tolerate this kind of waste and incompetence from Washington."

White House Spokesman Jay Carney, however, said recently that Sebelius has "the full confidence of the president."

"She, like everyone else in this effort, is focused on our No. 1 priority, which is making the implementation of the Affordable Care Act work well," said Carney during a press briefing, noting that people are working "24/7" to resolve the issues.

"Even though there have been challenges with the website, there are Americans across the country who are, through call centers and through the website and through states, getting access to this information and making sure—seeing what choices are available to them and enrolling if they're ready to enroll," Carney said.

The administration has not provided numbers yet on how many people have actually enrolled in the exchanges.

Millward Brown Digital prepared an analysis that found that only 1 percent of people who attempted to register for the federally run exchange through Oct. 5 completed enrollment.

The group found that states running their own exchanges have had relatively more success enrolling people than the federally run exchange.

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