Obama on defensive over health care

President Obama and aides continue to play defense when it comes to health care.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing Tuesday on a management study indicating that Obama administration officials were warned as early as March about potential problems with the health care website.

The study, by the firm of McKinsey & Co., said that "senior administration officials at the White House and Department of Health and Human Services were aware of the concerns about meeting the Oct. 1 launch date" for the website, said a statement from the Republican-run committee.

Meanwhile, a woman spotlighted in an Oct. 21 health care speech at the White House said she has had to drop her new insurance policy because the costs shot up suddenly after her enrollment.

Officials with the White House and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said red flags were raised during development of the health care website, but contractors said it would be ready by Oct. 1.

"Nobody anticipated the size and scope of the problems we experienced once the site launched," said White House spokesman Eric Schultz. "Since that time, experts have been working night and day to get it functioning -- and that is where our focus is, and should be, right now."

CMS spokeswoman Patti Unruh said of the McKinsey study: "The review was completed six months before the beginning of open enrollment, was in line with industry best practices, and was followed by concrete action to address potential risks -- as was intended."

Unruh said that "CMS has continually evaluated progress and has taken steps to prioritize and address concerns, and mitigate risks."

Jessica Sanford, a single mother from Washington state whose enrollment in the health care plan was highlighted by Obama on Oct. 21, told CNN that her initial cost of $169 per month rose to as much as $390 per month because the government miscalculated her benefits.

"I had a good cry," Sanford told CNN. "This is it. I'm not getting insurance. That's where it stands right now unless they fix it."

Criticism of the health care law appears to be taking a toll on the president's political standing.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll on Tuesday said 55% of respondents now disapprove of Obama's performance, the worst rating of his presidency; 44% "strongly disapprove" of the way Obama is handling his job.

Obama's approval rating is 42%, tied for his all-time low and a drop of six points over the past month.

As with other surveys, the fall of Obama's numbers can be traced to the start of October, and problems with the health care website and canceled policies.

During a conference call with supporters Monday night, Obama said that "it turns out that purchasing insurance for a lot of folks is complicated," and the problems are being addressed.

"We've made sure that we've got a strong plan to not just fix the website, which I'm taking responsibility for, but also to make sure there are other ways that people can sign up," Obama said.


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