Obama apologizes for healthcare insurance pledge
Updated: 2013-11-08 11:18
US President Barack Obama speaks about Affordable Health Care to volunteers at the Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, Texas, Nov 6, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]
WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama apologized on Thursday to Americans who are losing their healthcare insurance policies, saying in an interview that he regrets "we weren't as clear as we needed to be" about the reforms of his landmark healthcare restructuring.
Obama's expression of regret was aimed at placating Americans whose insurance plans are being canceled in spite of his oft-repeated pledge that if people liked their health plans, they would be able to keep them under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
"We weren't as clear as we needed to be, in terms of the changes that were taking place," Obama said in an interview with NBC News.
"I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me," he said.
The White House has been scrambling to control the damage from the botched October 1 launch of a plan aimed at making sure that the millions without insurance could get medical coverage.
The HealthCare.gov website designed to help Americans shop for insurance and see whether they qualify for subsidies has malfunctioned since its launch.
Anger has intensified as many Americans discover they stand to lose policies that they assumed would be grandfathered under Obamacare. Insurance companies have been dropping policies purchased or changed since passage of the law if they do not meet its minimum standards.
Obama has been lambasted by Republicans who oppose the law and by his fellow Democrats who are angry at the rocky rollout.
He has made several speeches in the past month where he took responsibility for fixing the problems, but the NBC interview was the most contrite he has been.
Obama said he tried to make the law as "undisruptive as possible" but said "we didn't do a good enough job in terms of how we crafted the law," and regretted it.
"I've assigned my team to see what we can do to close some of the holes and gaps in the law," Obama said.
'WHATEVER IT TAKES'
Obama said he is looking at "a range of options" to help people whose insurance plans are being canceled, although he stopped short of pledging support for proposed legislation that would grandfather more of the policies.
Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the US Senate, said in a statement that Obama should support a Republican plan that would let Americans keep existing plans if they wanted.
"If the President is truly sorry for breaking his promises to the American people, he'll do more than just issue a half-hearted apology on TV," McConnell said.
Many lawmakers, including some Democrats, have pressed the White House to extend deadlines for enrolling in insurance plans.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Republican Senator Mark Kirk introduced legislation on Thursday to delay a $95 penalty for not signing up for insurance by a year, saying Americans should not be penalized while Obamacare is going through its "transition period."
But Obama brushed off questions about whether he would support delays.
He said he was confident that by the end of November, the HealthCare.gov website would work for the "majority of people," and he pledged to do "whatever it takes for people to be able to get what is good-quality health insurance at cheaper prices or better insurance for the same price as bad insurance that they've got right now."