The president was made aware of the glitches as people reported problems "in the first couple of days" in the rollout of the site designed to help people access healthcare as part of the Affordable Care Act, Sebelius said in an interview with CNN that aired on Tuesday night.
Some Americans said that the website has been anything but stress-free since open-enrollment launched on Oct. 1, and one survey found that only about 20 percent of people who tried to log onto government-run marketplaces including HealthCare.gov were able to do so without any technical bungles.
Users have gotten error messages, the Spanish-language version of the site has been delayed, and the government contract for the U.S. division of Canadian company CGI has tripled in cost. A June report from the Government Accountability Office warned that the website might not be ready for primetime due to a flurry of last-minute changes.
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"There's no sugar-coating it," Obama said of the bug-ridden site.
Those worries don't seem to have made it to the Oval Office before the troubled rollout began, however, with Sebelius responding "No, sir," when pressed on whether Obama and HHS had serious concerns about the site before Oct. 1.
"I think that we talked about having testing going forward, and if we had an ideal situation and could have built a product in, you know, a five-year period of time we probably would have taken five years, but we didn't have five years," Sebelius said. "We wanted to make sure we made good on this final implementation of the law."
Sebelius said that she has created an account on the website but has not signed up for a policy because she already has insurance coverage. The website has received about 20 million visits, Sebelius told CNN, while others have sought coverage over the phone and in person.
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"I think there are certainly some challenges, it could be smoother, it could be easier to access," Sebelius said in the interview. "And that's really what we're working on. I mean, nobody says that the site is working the way we want it to. Certainly the president acknowledged that yesterday."
Sebelius blamed most of the problems on the site on what she called a high number of visitors.