Local News
12:16 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

Portman: Delay Obamacare sign-up until website problems fixed

It is time to delay the health insurance sign-up under the Affordable Care Act until the multitude of computer glitches that have frustrated millions of Americans can be worked out, Sen. Rob Portman said in Cincinnati Thursday.

“I support repeal of the whole thing and replacing it with something that is better, but I do think that a delay is appropriate now,’’ the Republican senator from Terrace Park told reporters Thursday morning.

Portman spoke to reporters at the Freestore/Foodbank, where he held a discussion with community leaders on the re-authorization of the Second Chance Act, a bill he sponsored to aid state and local governments with finding employment for ex-convicts.

Since enrollment for health care coverage started Oct. 1, millions of Americans have expressed frustration over the government’s enrollment website, healthcare.gov, citing long delays and inability to navigate the system.

Some have called for the firing of President Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Cincinnati native Kathleen Sebelius, who is responsible for the health care coverage enrollment process, which runs through next March.

Portman said he is not one of those calling for Sebelius’ ouster, but said he is “glad to see Secretary Sebelius has agreed to come before Congress next week to talk about the problem.”

Sebelius, in Cincinnati last week, said there were “glitches” in the start-up of the system, but said they are being worked out.

Portman said that minimizes the situation.

“It’s not a glitch; it’s a breakdown,’’ Portman said. “And we need to get it fixed so that people trying to access and get information have the ability to do that.”

Portman said he tried using the website himself and couldn’t get it to work.

Portman's fellow senator from Ohio, Sherrod Brown, was in Cincinnati Thursday too, at the SuperJobs Center, touting legislation that would help military veterans find jobs.

Brown, a Democrat and supporter of Obamacare, said the same people who are calling for a delay are the ones who opposed the Affordable Care Act in the first place.

"I don't want a delay of any kind, but if it takes a little longer to sign up because of the government's mistakes, I'm fine with that but I don't want to see a six-month delay,'' Brown said.

Portman said some Democrats agree with him.

“I saw today in the news that there are a few Democrats who have come out for delay as well,’’ Portman said.

Portman came to Freestore/Foodbank Thursday for a roundtable discussion with officials from local social service agencies and local government about the Second Chance Act, which is up for re-authorization by Congress. Portman was a sponsor of the original bill when a House member; and is pushing for re-authorization as a senator.

Portman said that, today, more than half the inmates released from prison “end up back in the system within a few years, a tremendous cost to the taxpayers of Ohio.

Portman said that, through 2015, Ohio would save $78 million in incarceration with the Second Chance Act “just by getting people out of that revolving door and into jobs where they can be productive citizens and pay taxes.”