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Health care website ‘kinks’ a political embarrassment for Obama

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How badly Obama and his signature domestic achievement are damaged may depend on how quickly the fixes work.

If problems linger, Obama will face mounting calls to delay the mandate for all Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine equivalent to one percent of their income. This is due to come into force next year.

There is also a growing drumbeat for the head of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius though White House aides privately say her job is safe, blaming contractors, not administration officials, for the problems.

Top aides to Obama have long believed that once more Americans see the results of Obamacare in action, the law would become more popular. But such hopes may not survive days of stories over its botched debut.

“Every day that there are problems with the Obamacare website is going to be a day where the Republicans say this is Obamacare writ large,” said Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire.

“If it is something that lingers for months that is a big problem. It will feed into a public perception that it won’t work.”

To work, Obamacare must attract droves of healthy, young people who typically are the most loath to buy health insurance to sign up to subsidize the risk posed by older, sicker, consumers. So anything that deters them from taking the plunge could be disastrous for the law.

With that in mind, and given the centrality of Obamacare to the president’s political identity, many experts are baffled at the mess.

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“That they didn’t seem to have this better prepared for the rollout on October 1 goes beyond me being surprised,” said Daniel Sledge, a professor and health care specialist at the University of Texas.

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