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Washington (AFP) – A key stage of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law hit a stumbling block Tuesday when millions of people flocked to browse online insurance but were frustrated by technical glitches.

The launch of healthcare.gov went ahead despite a U.S. government shutdown incited by Republicans opposed to the law, and Obama vowed that six in 10 people could find insurance there for less than $100 per month.

But many of the 2.8 million users the government reported having counted for the day were blocked from entering the site due to heavy traffic.

“With any new product launch, there are going to be glitches as things unfold,” said Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“We certainly had a high volume of consumers creating accounts this morning,” she told reporters. “We added capacity, and made some adjustments to the system to handle that.”

She declined to specify how many people had signed up on the first day of what is to be a six month process, saying only: “We can confirm that people have enrolled.”

Known widely as “Obamacare,” the Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress and signed by Obama in 2010, with a promise to help over 30 million uninsured people get health care coverage.

Despite its ambitions to revolutionize American health care, the plan is not free, and will not be able to cover tens of millions of people in America who lack full insurance.

Advocates have touted it as a major step toward universal health care, while opponents like Republican House speaker John Boehner have insisted the law “is not ready for prime-time.”

System overload

Indeed, for much of Tuesday, the new health insurance exchanges that were to begin enrolling people via the website healthcare.gov were jammed.

Frustrated users flocked to Twitter to complain that healthcare.gov and others linked to the exchanges were not working.

An attempt by an AFP reporter to check prices offered in Virginia resulted in the message: “Important: Your account couldnt [sic] be created at this time. The system is unavailable.”

The NY State of Health site said that “overwhelming interest” had led to two million visits in the first two hours of the launch, and asked people to come back later if they had been unable to log in.

“Today is launch day for Obamacare and so far it’s like a giant online traffic jam on the first day of summer vacation,” said independent technology analyst Jeff Kagan.

“No one knew what to expect, but chaos is what we have.”

Obama said the main website had been slowed because more than one million people visited before 7:00 am (1100 GMT) alone.

“There were five times more users in the marketplace this morning than have ever been on Medicare.gov at one time. That gives you a sense of how important this is,” Obama said outside the White House, flanked by a handful of citizens who would benefit from the reform.

“We are going to be speeding things up in the next few hours to handle this demand that exceeds anything we expected.”

About seven million Americans are expected to seek coverage by 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

By the numbers

The policies available on the health exchanges range in price according to a person’s income, location, family size and the level of coverage desired on a scale of bronze, silver, gold or platinum.

All Americans must sign up for some kind of health insurance by January 1 or face a fine.

The government said there would be an average of 53 plans to choose from in the federally-facilitated marketplace.

Most Americans have health insurance — 82.6 percent according a July report from the Department of Commerce based on data from the 2010 Census.

About half get it through their employer, and about 30 percent are enrolled in government programs like Medicare, mainly for seniors, and Medicaid, which covers the poor and disabled.

That leaves 17.4 percent of Americans with no health insurance whatsoever, or about 53 million people.

An analysis in the journal Health Affairs earlier this year projected that around 30 million Americans will still not get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

Those gaps are due in part to the Supreme Court’s decision to allow some states to opt out of expanding Medicaid programs, coupled with a cut in funding to safety-net hospitals.

“The ACA, whatever its merits, will fall well short of its stated goal of providing affordable care for all Americans.”

Photo Credit: AFP/Karen Bleier

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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