While the White House is claiming that Healthcare.gov is now working well, it’s still going to indefinitely delay the move of Jeff Zients to the Council of Economic Advisers as he oversees fixes to the exchange.
“We feel — we feel confident about the site working now as — as it was intended — originally conceived to do, granted two months later than we had, you know — we or anyone would have liked to have seen. So we have confidence in that,” White House Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri told MSNBC today.
Palmieri brushed off a question about whether the administration is going to step up public relations efforts this week to tout a fixed website, saying the site’s already getting enough traffic.
“We — we don’t — we’re — we’re not doing that because we don’t need to do that, in terms of driving traffic. We’re gonna monitor — it’s not about confidence in the site, it’s about whether or not you actually need to drive traffic,” she said. “We’re gonna — we anticipated that just because of the delay from the last few months, and then a lot of the press attention around this that today, in particular, would probably be a very high-volume day. We wanted to see how these first few days go.”
“And if we’re getting a lot of traffic, then we don’t feel — feel the need to drive it, and if we — if — if we see numbers start to drop off, then we’ll start taking those kinds of actions to — to get more people to the site.”
Zients, who was supposed to start his post as chairman of President Obama’s economic team, said in a report on the site’s progress that it is now performing at “private-sector velocity.”
“There are some things that the private sector does really well. And running — creating and running good websites is — is one of them. And — and, you know, we always look for the best practices from the private sector that we can bring to government,” Palmieri said.
“There are some things the private sector doesn’t do well; for example, in the case of health insurance, being able to provide affordable coverage to everyone. This is a place where the government needed to step in, put some rules in place for protection, so people — pre-existing conditions can get health care. So that people who get dropped from their employer coverage have another option or place to go,” she continued. “So the approach that we take is let’s take the best practice (inaudible) private sector where, you know — where they — where they do well and they do better than us. And this is an area where they do that and that’s the kind of practices that — that we wanted to bring, and that Jeff Zients and his team helped us to bring to the website.”
As far as Zients being able to come off Obamacare oversight and start his new job on time in a month, Palmieri said he’s going to stay on the website as long as needed.
“And he’s gonna continue that for the immediate future. He will become the NEC director at some point, I’m not sure exactly the date,” she said. “But the other thing that we want people to understand is that when Jeff does leave, you know, this is always going to be a short- term assignment for him, that he will be replaced by someone, because both the president and Secretary Sebelius think it’s very important that we have someone whose job it is is just to focus specifically on — on this technology, on the website, and on doing what we need to do to get the — to get the type of traffic and enrollment numbers that we need.”
“He’s still there now, and we don’t have — I don’t have a departure date for him but he’ll be NEC director at some point, and we’ll make it a full-time job for somebody else.”
Last week, Dem Sens. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Mark Warner of Virginia, Chris Coons of Delaware, Mark Udall of Colorado, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Tim Kaine of Virginia wrote Obama asking that he appoint a permanent overseer for Healthcare.gov immediately.
“A project of this size and scope demands the sustained leadership and day-to-day management of a chief executive officer — someone whose sole responsibility would be an unrelenting focus on healthcare.gov,” they wrote. “The position should report directly to you and should be empowered with the authority to ensure that healthcare.gov is fixed quickly, completely, and permanently.”