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Obama taps top aide Zients for health care website repair

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration is turning to top economic adviser, Jeffrey Zients, to manage the government's repair of its troubled new health care website.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday that Zients, a former budget official who is on his way to becoming President Barack Obama's top economic adviser on January 1, has been brought in to provide "management advice and counsel" to the project.

Obama on Monday promised to fix the healthcare.gov website, which opened on October 1 for millions of uninsured Americans to start enrolling for plans under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare." Americans have encountered error messages and other problems in trying to sign on.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in an HHS blog posting that Zients will provide short-term advice, assessments and recommendations. Additional experts have been brought in, including veterans of top Silicon Valley companies, to work on the problems, she said.

"This new infusion of talent will bring a powerful array of subject matter expertise and skills, including extensive experience scaling major IT systems," Sebelius said.

White House spokesman Carney described Zients as "an expert in the field of effective management, and the HHS will be tapping his experience and expertise as they address the challenges that have come up with the administration of the website."

A prolonged delay in getting Healthcare.gov to work could jeopardize the White House's effort to sign up as many as 7 million people in 2014, the first full year it takes effect.

(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal, Roberta Rampton, Steve Holland and David Morgan; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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