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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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November 13th, 2013
05:44 PM ET

Obamacare architect: If health care website is not fixed, administration needs to give extension

(CNN) - Some 106,185 people signed up for Obamacare in its first month of operation, a period marred by major technological problems with the federal and some state enrollment websites.

Economist Jonathan Gruber, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was an adviser involved with the Affordable Care Act. He was also behind the Massachusetts health care plan devised by then-governor Mitt Romney.

"It's too early to say anything useful," said Gruber, of the newly released numbers.

"The real deadline we have to focus on is March of next year. That's when the individual mandate kicks in. That's when people need to be signed up, and what we saw in Massachusetts was a large rush before the mandate kicked in," said Gruber.

Millions of individuals whose plans are being canceled because they don't meet the standards set up by the new health care law, and they are likely worried about their ability to get health insurance.

"If the website is not working as the government says, by the end of November, these people can't get in plans by January, there will have to be some effort by the administration and insurers to give them an extension for a month or two before their plans are canceled to get new plans," said Gruber.

"We don't want to cancel plans on people before the website is available to get new ones," he added.

But, Gruber added, compared to enrollment numbers in Massachusetts, the federal government "did great" in the first month. The Bay State enrolled 0.3% of people in the first month, compared to the federal government's 1.3%.

"We had low numbers not because the website didn't work, but because people said look, the deadline to sign up is December 31, I'll sign up before then," Gruber said of the numbers out of Massachusetts. "Here people are saying the deadline is March 31, I'll sign up then."

Fewer than 27,000 Americans selected an insurance plan through the federal healthcare.gov site, which is handling enrollment for 36 states, according to figures released Wednesday by the Obama administration. The site is still far from fully operational, leaving tech experts racing to get it working by month's end, as the administration promised.

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