Call it the Obamacare website fiasco, with the focus Wednesday on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius after she told CNN that President Barack Obama knew nothing of the problem before it became evident starting on Oct. 1.
Sebelius heads to the White House for an afternoon meeting with insurance industry executives, then leaves town to participate with other officials in what the administration calls a "grassroots effort" to boost enrollment in Obama's signature health care reform system.
Republican opponents seeking to undermine the 2010 Affordable Care Act call for Sebelius to be fired for the website problems in the program overseen by her department.
They also want to delay the deadline for people to obtain health coverage under the law or face a fine, with one Democratic senator joining that call.
Here are the latest developments:
Signing up the uninsured
Sebelius and other Cabinet secretaries as well as White House officials will head to cities across the country to encourage uninsured people to enroll in the new system.
"We are planning to deploy White House officials and Cabinet secretaries to the 10 cities across the country with the highest rates of uninsured Americans to do enrollment events and other grassroots activities," an administration official said. "These cities and metropolitan areas include Dallas; Houston; Miami; Atlanta; Phoenix/Tucson; North Jersey; Tampa; Orlando; Detroit and San Antonio."
Exclusive CNN interview
In the interview Tuesday with CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Sebelius said Obama didn't hear that there may be problems with the sign-up portal for new exchanges under the health care law until it went live on Oct. 1.
The site was supposed to make it simple for people to search and sign up for new health care policies, but instead it's been clunky and, at times, inoperable.
She attributed some problems to "extremely high" volume, saying nearly 20 million people came to the Healthcare.gov website in the first three weeks after its launch.
Of those, about 500,000 created accounts on the website, far below the millions that the administration hopes to eventually sign up in the six-month open enrollment period that ends on March 31.
Administration officials also note that such sign-ups traditionally start slow as consumers shop around, with the most activity occurring in the final weeks and days before the final deadline.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Wednesday that Obama knew there would be "glitches" and said ahead of time there would be problems in the rollout, but "there is no question that we did not anticipate the scale of problems with the website."
Republicans said the Sebelius interview showed the president didn't know what was going on with the law nicknamed for him.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus issued a sharply worded statement on the latest development.
"Either Secretary Sebelius is lying to protect President Obama or the President needs to get control of his signature health care law," he said.
Sebelius says she is bringing in tech experts from Silicon Valley, as well as acting Office of Management Budget Director Jeff Zients, to try to fix website problems that have included long delays, the inability to enroll and bad information relayed to insurers.
Asked why the leading experts were only getting involved now, instead of before the website launch, Sebelius said of the contractors and agencies responsible for the project: "We (had) hoped that they had their 'A-Team' on the table" from the start.
For now, she said, "we want new eyes and ears," adding that "we want to make sure that we get all the questions on the table, that we get all the answers and accelerate the fix as quickly as possible."
Republicans already are challenging the concept, calling it a "money surge" and seeking information from some of the outside experts about what they are supposed to do.
In letters Wednesday to five technology companies -- Verizon Enterprise Inc., Google, Microsoft, Oracle and Expedia -- House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa of Calfornia asked for details of what involvement, if any, they have in the surge.
"Despite the President's assertion that 'we're well into a tech surge,' neither the White House nor (the Department of Health and Human Services) is providing additional details about which private sector companies have been engaged or whether they are being engaged through the appropriate procurement processes," Issa said.