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Lew says health exchange rollout glitches typical for new software

Says frustrated insurance buyers ‘shouldn’t give up’

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After a week of ongoing glitches, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Sunday defended the online rollout of Obamacare's health insurance exchanges and promised the bugs would be worked out.

"It is not unique that when you have a very large, new software program come out that people work to clean it up," the former White House chief of staff said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday." "I usually wait until it's 0.3 or 0.4 before I sign up. So many millions of people rushed to get in because that shows how much interest there is in — in getting health care."

Two days after President Obama said frustrated insurance customers "definitely shouldn't give up," the Treasury secretary on Sunday blitzed all the major political talk shows.

In addition to defending Obamacare, Mr. Lew fired back at Republicans over the government shutdown stalemate and the deadlock over the looming debt ceiling.

On "Fox News Sunday," he ducked repeated attempts by host Chris Wallace to get an answer to the question of how many Americans were able to successfully sign up on the health-care exchanges last week.

"I don't have the exact number," Mr. Lew said. "It's the wrong question."

Mr. Lew, again echoing the president, compared the program's launch to the introduction of a major new product by a software company.

"What happened this week is we saw 7 million people rush to go ... find out what are their choices in this new marketplace to buy affordable health care," he said. "You know, they have six months to sign up. This is a big decision."

"The fact that so many millions of people rushed to get information is a very good sign," he said. "That shows how much interest there is."

On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services pitched the first week as a success even as it said it will take down the application function on the site during "off-peak" hours for maintenance.

"The enhancements we are making will enable more simultaneous users to successfully create an account and move through the application and plan shopping process. We expect that Monday, less than a week after the marketplace opening, there will be significant improvements in the online consumer experience," the agency said.

HHS also listed positive testimonials from insurance companies and news excerpts about successful enrollees in the various exchanges.

On Friday, a 21-year-old Georgia resident who was touted at midweek as one of the few people who was able to acquire insurance through the federal website — a notable feat considering long wait times and "holding pages" on the site — clarified that he has not finished the enrollment process.

Chad Henderson told The Washington Post that he was able to sign up, find out what he is eligible for financially, and decided what plan he wants to buy, but never claimed he had taken the last step of purchasing a plan.

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