Updated 3:50 p.m. | President Barack Obama heard an earful at the White House Wednesday from Senate Democrats running for re-election next year who are fuming about the Affordable Care Act's rocky rollout.
During a two-hour meeting that was not on the president's public schedule, the president met with 15 Senate Democrats facing the voters next year, as well as Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska issued a release after the meeting torching the administration.
"It is simply unacceptable for Alaskans to bear the brunt of the Administration’s mismanagement of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and that is the message U.S. Senator Mark Begich delivered to President Obama today," his office said in a statement blasted to reporters.
The release went on to say that Begich complained about "an unworkable website, technical glitches and inaccurate information about peoples’ individual situations. Begich demanded the administration fix the problems immediately so Alaskans, including the 55,000 eligible for subsidies to lower monthly premiums, can realize the many benefits due to them as a result of the health reform law.
"Alaskans should be appreciating the critical benefits of the Affordable Care Act but there is an understandable crisis in confidence because the administration has yet to get it off the ground," Begich said.
Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado said he let the president know just how upset he is about the troubled health care law. He sent out a release saying that he had pressed the administration to extend the enrollment period due to the problems with HealthCare.gov, ensure that the data on the website is secure and make other modifications.
"The rollout of HealthCare.gov has not been smooth — to say the least — and I shared the concerns of Coloradans directly with the president," Udall said in the statement. "Consumers should have the time they need to shop for a plan and enroll after the widespread problems with the website are fixed. I urged the president again to extend the enrollment period to give consumers enough time to make an informed decision about their family's health insurance options. I also told the president that, for the Affordable Care Act to succeed, consumers need to be confident their personal information is secure. We need to do everything in our power to protect the online marketplace from hackers and cyberattacks."
A White House official released a readout of the meeting "to discuss the progress that's been made" and "hear their input on existing challenges" with the law.
"The President emphasized that he shared the Senators’ commitment to ensuring that Americans who want to enroll in health insurance through the Marketplaces are able to do so in time for insurance to start as early as January 1st, and throughout the open enrollment period which goes through March 31," the official said. "He also discussed ongoing efforts to ramp up communication and education outreach to consumers who have received or might receive letters about how their individual market plans might be affected. In addition, the President also reiterated that the Administration is working to protect the privacy and security of consumers and to ensure that online Marketplace applications are protected by stringent security standards, with ongoing testing to help safeguard personal information."
Udall also sent letters to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and to Marilyn Tavenner, who oversees the agency charged with implementing the law, outlining his concerns.
In addition to Bennet, Udall and Begich, attendees included the other Senate Democrats up in 2014: Cory Booker of New Jersey, Chris Coons of Delaware, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Al Franken of Minnesota, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Mark Warner of Virginia. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, who is also up in 2014, did not attend because he was chairing a hearing on USAID and Peace Corps nominations.
After the meeting, the president's trip to Texas was delayed about an hour. He is scheduled to give a speech on Obamacare and attend two high-dollar fund-raisers for the DSCC. Bennet boarded Marine One with him on the South Lawn and will make the trip.
The White House meeting came as Senate Democrats have grown increasingly concerned about the rollout, with Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., saying Tuesday that the early problems had created a "crisis of confidence."