JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: Let me make sure I got that last part right. Given all the problems that we have seen with people trying to enroll in this program, is the White House going to be delaying the mandate?
JAY CARNEY: No. Listen, that is not all what I was saying.
KARL: Well why not?
KARL: Why not delay? You are going to charge people a fine for not enrolling, why not --
CARNEY: We're three weeks into a six-month enrollment period. As I said, the law itself as written makes clear that Americans with access to affordable insurance would need to have insurance by March 31. But people that do not have access to affordable care, due to a state not expanding Medicaid -- and there are states out there who are depriving their own residents of access to expanded Medicaid because they made that choice -- or due to other factors, will not be penalized. That is number one. When it comes to the issue I was just talking to Brianna about, with the February 15 marker period, I would refer you to HHS for more details, but they are looking to align the policies, the disconnect between open enrollment period and the individual responsibility timeframes, which exists in the first year only.
The point that I'm trying to make, Jon, and addressing the question at the end of your question, is we're focused on providing quality health insurance to millions of Americans. We are three weeks into a six-month enrollment period. If you enrolled last week or you enroll next week, your insurance does not kick in until January 1st. And ample prior experience shows that in programs like these, most people do not enroll until towards the end. If you are able to shop for an extended period of time before you have to buy, you are likely to shop.
In Massachusetts, for example, where similar health-care initiatives was passed into law, the average consumer explored his or her options six to eight times, I believe the figure was, before actually making a decision. So, again, we're acknowledging, clearly as the president did, problems that have existed on the website. That we are focused on making the consumer experience better, providing clear information to Americans about the variety of ways they can get the information about plans, as well as the variety of ways that they can enroll to them.
And our focus is on making the Affordable Care Act work and making sure that Americans have access to these plans. Not on figuring out who is to blame for a problem that clearly exists and we need to fix.
KARL: You can't really charge people a fine for not getting health insurance if don't fix this mess. You can't make the website work, can you?
CARNEY: I appreciate what you're saying and I have answered now and will answer again that people who --
KARL: So if the website is not fixed, will people still have to pay the fine?
CARNEY: First of all, we're way still early in the process. You're talking about February 15 and a March 31st deadline, it is October 21st today. We are three weeks into this.