Senate Democrats gave vent to their frustrations with the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act during a hearing today with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.
"I believe there has been a crisis of confidence created in the dysfunctional nature of the website, the canceling of policies and sticker shock from some people," Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., warned.
Tavenner was questioned Tuesday during a Senate hearing with the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Mikulski worried that people wouldn't enroll in the health insurance exchanges because of the widely reported problems with the website and lack sufficient information about other ways to sign up.
"I think it is very confusing about where you go. You hear about the navigators and this and that, but I can tell you people really do not know. They really, really do not know," she said.
Other Democratic senators agreed that the website problems were unacceptable.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., complained that the Obamacare exchange administrators were failing the basic rules of running a business that should be addressed immediately.
"I hope as we go forward we don't lose sight of the fact that government does not do a great job with procurement, with IT, or with customer service, and we're seeing that here in spades," Bennett said.
Even firm supporters of Obamacare admitted that the problems with the website were unacceptable.
"Everyone is frustrated by the first few weeks of healthcare.gov and everyone is looking for answers, including me," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, R-Mass., calling the website problems "unacceptable."
Warren encouraged patience with the website, citing the initial problems with the launch of former Gov. Mitt Romney's Massachusetts health care reform program.
Sen. Al Franken, R-Minn., said his constituents were having problems using the state-based Minnesota exchange website due to problems with the federal website.
"Like my colleagues, I am frustrated and disappointed that a month into the open enrollment, there's still problems with the federal marketplace," he said.
Sen. Kay Hagan, N.C., who is up for re-election in 2014, asked Tavenner if the administration planned to delay the tax penalty for not buying insurance due to the continued problems with the website.
"There are no plans to delay the individual mandate," Tavenner said.
"So what if the site is not working?" asked Hagan.
"The site will be working. The site is working now, what we are doing now is making performance improvements," Tavenner replied. "But the site will be working."