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News Analysis: Obama under increasing pressure to fix embattled Obamacare website

English.news.cn   2013-11-07 15:17:27            

By Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) -- With his approval rating taking a nosedive this week, U.S. President Barack Obama is under increasing pressure to fix the website that forms the centerpiece of his signature healthcare overhaul.

The president has in recent weeks been embroiled in controversy over the implementation of Healthcare.gov, the portal site of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

Launched on Oct. 1, the site has been riddled with technical glitches preventing people from completing enrollment in health insurance plans, frustrating many users and raising questions about the government's competence in implementing such a massive project.

On Tuesday, Obama's approval rating dropped to 39 percent in a Gallup poll, which many analysts said was a result of the botched Obamacare rollout, raising the question of whether the current imbroglio will hurt the Democrats' performance in next year's midterm Congressional elections.

"Obama is lucky the midterm elections are a year away. That gives him time to fix the Obamacare website and address the various issues that have come up in terms of implementation," Darrell West, senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Brookings Institution, told Xinhua.

"But he needs to address these issues right away to avoid them becoming much bigger problems for him. He has to be careful that people do not perceive his administration as incompetent and unable to address basic problems. That would be very damaging politically if people reached that conclusion."

On Wednesday, U.S. lawmakers again grilled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a Senate hearing over the floundering implementation in a bid to get to the bottom of the website fiasco.

Republican Senator John Cornyn told the hearing he believed it was "impossible" to get fired in the Obama administration, no matter how bad an official's performance.

Critics are also blasting Obama for previous promises to Americans that those who liked their insurance plans could keep them, as recent weeks have seen more than two million Americans suddenly without coverage because their plans did not adhere to new government-mandated guidelines.

Karlyn Bowman, senior fellow at the think tank American Enterprise Institute, told Xinhua that it was hard to know whether Obama's slump to 39 percent approval is temporary or not.

"First impressions are very important in politics and the first impressions of the government's Obamacare rollout were disastrous," she said. "The news on this will have to get a lot better for (Obama's) numbers to move up."

"I wouldn't put too much weight on the movement below 40 percent right now," Bowman added. "It is the continued weakness of the economy that is keeping his numbers down, although the rollout and the shutdown have certainly contributed."

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Editor: Yang Yi
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