Obama: 'I'm sorry' Americans are losing insurance

Seeking to calm a growing furor, President Barack Obama said Thursday he's sorry Americans are losing health insurance plans he repeatedly said they could keep under his signature health care law.
AP Wire
Nov 7, 2013

But the president stopped short of apologizing for making those promises in the first place.

"I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me," he said in an interview with NBC News.

Signaling possible tweaks to the law, Obama said his administration was working to close "some of the holes and gaps" that were causing millions of Americans to get cancellation letters. Officials said he was referring to fixes the administration can make on its own, not legislative options some congressional lawmakers have proposed.

"We've got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them, and we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this," Obama said.

The president's apology comes as the White House tries to combat a cascade of troubles surrounding the rollout of the health care law often referred to as "Obamacare." The healthcare.gov website that was supposed to be an easy portal for Americans to purchase insurance has been riddled by technical issues. And with at least 3.5 million Americans receiving cancellation notices from their insurance companies, there's new scrutiny aimed at the way the president tried to sell the law to the public in the first place.

In Thursday's interview, Obama took broader responsibility for the health care woes than in his previous comments about the rollout, declaring that if the law isn't working "it's my job to get it fixed."

"When you've got a health care rollout that is as important to the country and to me as this is and it doesn't work like a charm, that's my fault," he said.

Some Republicans, who remain fierce opponents of the law three years after it won congressional approval, appeared unmoved by Obama's mea culpa.

"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," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement.

In recent days, focus has intensified on the president's promise that Americans who liked their insurance coverage would be able to keep it. He repeated the line often, both as the bill was being debated in Congress and after it was signed into law.

But the health care law itself made that promise almost impossible to keep. It mandated that insurance coverage must meet certain standards and that policies falling short of those standards would no longer be valid unless they were grandfathered, meaning some policies were always expected to disappear.

The White House says under those guidelines, fewer than 5 percent of Americans will have to change their coverage. But in a nation of more than 300 million people, 5 percent is about 15 million people.

Officials argue that those forced to change plans will end up with better coverage and that subsidies offered by the government will help offset any increased costs.

"We weren't as clear as we needed to be in terms of the changes that were taking place," Obama told NBC. "And I want to do everything we can to make sure that people are finding themselves in a good position, a better position than they were before this law happened."

The president's critics have accused him of misleading the public about changes that were coming under the law, which remains unpopular with many Americans.

Obama dismissed those accusations, insisting the White House was operating in "good faith." He acknowledged that the administration "didn't do a good enough job in terms of how we crafted the law" but did not specify what changes the administration might make.

The White House has not formally taken a position on a variety of proposals from Congress to address issues that have arisen since the insurance sign-ups launched on Oct. 1.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., has proposed requiring insurance companies to reinstate canceled plans, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is supporting a measure to delay for a year the penalties for going without insurance. Another Democrat, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, is asking Obama to extend the open enrollment period for insurance exchanges because of the widespread problems with the website.

On Wednesday, Obama met at the White House with Senate Democrats facing re-election next year to try to ease their concerns about the impact the rough health care rollout might have on their races. Many senators in the meeting asked for the enrollment period to be extended but the White House said it doesn't that that will be necessary.

The six-month sign-up window ends March 31. Unless Americans have enrolled in a plan by then, they'll face a penalty.

Obama said he remains confident that anyone who wants to buy insurance will be able to do so.

"Keep in mind that the open enrollment period, the period during which you can buy health insurance, is available all the way until March 31," he said. "And we're only five weeks into it."

Administration officials say they expect the website to be working for the vast majority of users by the end of November.

___

Comments

Vladtheimp

Since Obama and his team knew for at least three years that huge numbers of Americans would lose their health insurance due to his signature legislation, this is akin to a bank robber who got caught saying he was sorry he got caught.

Lanivan

In the off chance you might be interested in reading something other than your own narrative, here's this:

The Affordable Care Act, as signed by the president in 2010, states quite clearly that if your individual health insurance plan was in effect prior to March 23, 2010, your plan would be grandfathered as-is, despite new rules that expand mandatory benefits and ban practices such as lifetime limits. In other words, if you signed up for an insurance policy before March of 2010, and if you like that policy, you could ostensibly keep it. It's in the law.

However, an implementation rule was added later by Health & Human Services which narrowed the grandfathering parameters. If the benefits of a policy were altered after that date, those policies would lose grandfathered status. Meanwhile, HHS determined that up to 67 percent of customers would lose their plans, but only as a reflection of normal trends in the system -- not as the result of a sudden drop off due to the ACA.

So when the president said, "If you like your insurance you can keep it," he meant that the law itself wouldn't force you to call up your insurance provider and cancel your policy if you liked it. Nor was he suggesting that an insurance company would be compelled by the law to keep you as a customer for life, irrespective of circumstances. While the law in fact prohibits the cancellation of a plan if you're suddenly sick or injured, or if you make a mistake on your application -- two common occurrences before the ACA -- you can still lose your plan if you fail to pay your premium or if you lie on your paperwork.

Here's the kicker. The law absolutely prohibits arbitrary cancellations -- except for grandfathered plans like Sundby's UnitedHealthcare plan. Frankly, switching to a Cover California plan might be the best thing for Sundby because her grandfathered plan likely included lifetime and annual limits on coverage (bad news for cancer patients); it wasn't required to comply with government audits to prevent excessive premium hikes; and it could've randomly forced her to change doctors anyway.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bo...

Vladtheimp

He Lied!

Lanivan

Who? George Bush, Sr - "Read my lips"

Wolverine49457

41 failed miserably on an ironclad put it in a lockbox promise and was fired by mostly republican voters who think breaking a promise for political gain or expediency compromises the trust with those who helped put him into the job and that's the way it should be. The surprise is we elected "W" who was also a progressive and never saw a tax he didn’t like. Obama is not the first and unfortunately he will not be the last to lie to Americans for gains in political or authoritarian power, he's about the best snake oil salesman I’ve seen, Eskimo's are lining up to buy ice and air conditioners.

Lanivan

Going off on a tangent, I thought you might be interested in the following:

President Obama Cut Taxes for Almost All Working Americans
Ronald Reagan Tripled the National Debt
George W. Bush Doubled the National Debt
Reagan Raised Debt Ceiling 17 Times, Bush Seven
Tax Cuts Don't Pay for Themselves
Almost All Working Americans Pay Taxes
The GOP's "Job Creators" Don't Create Jobs
Low Capital Gains Taxes Fuel Income Inequality...
...But Not Investment
The Estate Tax Has Virtually No Impact on Family Farms and Businesses
Income Inequality Has Reached an 80 Year High...
...While the Federal Tax Burden Has Hit a 60 Year Low
Romney-Ryan Plan Another Massive Tax Cut Windfall for the Wealthy
Romney, Ryan Won't Say Which of the $1 Trillion in Tax Breaks GOP Will End
Romney-Ryan Will Add More Debt Than President Obama

Wolverine49457

I guess we should all thank him for how great things are, massive debt and unemployment, more servicemen killed in the first three years than under 8 of Bush, and a health care system the third world is thankful not to have…yep this guys a genius, thanks for parroting the progressive talking points, we don't get to hear those enough from Art Carney or Duncy Pelosi. We should simply remember…”The other kid broke the lamp so what’ll ya do?”…what a spineless talking head full of nothing useful pronouncer in chief we ended up with.

Lanivan

"..thanks for parroting the progressive talking points,.."

May I make an unsolicited suggestion?

The points I made are not progressive talking points. They are facts, which can all be substantiated from here to Sunday.

I suggest you, a.) Cease spewing right-wing propaganda, and, b.) Spend a few minutes checking up unbiased sources (Fox anything, Rush, Glenn, Mark, etc - no-no's!), c.) Get a good American history book that you can read this winter. You will be amazed at how it will put events into context and provide a better frame of perception.

You are doing yourself a disservice - both as a US citizen, and a self-proclaimed Christian.

deuce liti

Ironically the American history book was made in china.

Tri-cities realist

You forgot to include what the federal debt has done under Obama, an innocent oversight on your part, I'm sure. Yeah right. But save yourself the time of droning on about how he inherited such a big mess. Will he take responsibility in his 6th year? He certainly hasn't thus far. The buck stops over there, with him, or her, or him.

On a totally unrelated topic, I wonder if our dear leader changed his name because he didn't like the initials BS. Although BO is not much better. Both are pretty accurate though. I know, childish on my part, but once I thought of it, I couldn't help myself. Is there a support group available for me?

Lanivan

Read comment above to Wolverine 49457, made at 9:02 a.m..

It's got your name on it, too.

Tri-cities realist

Blah.

RenegadeX

Actually, it was you (Lanivan) who brought up GB 41, no? And what part of "..if you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it. Period." should I NOT believe again?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M...

I know, I know, my mind is brainwashed by those right-wingers running YouTube.

zwesterhouse

More like "Read my hips"

winggirl

Lanivan - Bush Sr. got "fired" when he lied (he didn't get re-elected.) Why can't you stay focused on the discussion at hand?

Lanivan

Hi Honey - FYI = we weren't talking about re-elections, just on those presidents who lied. Which reminds me, there really isn't much about Carter lying, but he didn't get re-elected, either.

I do try to stay focused, but sometimes it's more fun to be led astray.

RenegadeX

Perhaps this will help us stay focused, no?

http://www.nationalreview.com/ar...

Tri-cities realist

Lanny, I'm glad you brought up the implementation rules imposed by HHS. To expand upon what you've written, a plan would lose its grandfathered status if anything changed, something as minor as co-pays going up by $5, say from $20 to $25. We all know healthcare costs rise annually, so this rule was implemented for the sole purpose of making SURE plans eventually lose their grandfathered status. Which begs the question, was HHS acting as a rogue, with Obama having no knowledge of its new rules? That is hard to imagine. So either Obama knew (which he did) and covered it up, or HHS implemented rules without his knowledge, which would be a critical lack of leadership on Obama's part for his signature legislation. Either way, Obama is to blame and should be held accountable, impeachment anyone?

And while you've shown that other Presidents have been less than honest, why can't you bring yourself to admit that this President also lied?

Mystic Michael

The United States Constitution allows for the option of impeaching the President, only in the case of "high crimes and misdemeanors". In case you don't understand what that means, it means that the President has to be guilty of some very serious breach(es) of the public trust (and for the record, that means something FAR greater than the "crime" of having lied to a special prosecutor about having had an affair with an intern) - AND that one must have a substantial amount of evidence to back up such a serious allegation.

Kindly note that the Constitution does NOT make any provision for impeachment of the President a) because you disagree with his policies, b) because he's of the opposite political party from you, c) because you resent his successes in office, and/or d) because deep down, you think that he's "too big for his britches" and "doesn't know his place".

Bottom line: Unless you have evidence of the President having violated his oath of office in some particularly egregious manner, knowingly or carelessly putting the American people in harm's way, committing a serious crime - or any other violation of similar gravity...AND you can PROVE IT to a high level of credibility, then you are behaving like an ignorant ass, and you need to STFU - for good. And that goes for all you who are crying, "Impeachment! Impeachment!"

Tri-cities realist

Thanks for the lesson on the Constitution, I feel so enlightened. While the "high crimes and misdemeanors" is somewhat vague, I believe intentionally lying to the American people to get elected, and pass legislation that was based on that lie, would fit the definition. Nixon was on the verge of being impeached (and likely convicted, see I know the difference, aren't you proud of me?) and thus did the correct thing and resigned. Even some in the MSM are talking about Nixon in the same breath as Obama.

Regarding Clinton, his perjury (although not convicted in the Senate) was enough for him to lose his law license in Arkansas and to argue before SCOTUS. And while I'm sure you'll disagree, I believe that meets the definition in the Constitution. If he had just been honest and admitted his infidelity, and not obstructed, he never would have been impeached.

I resent your "doesn't know his place" comment as implying I'm a racist, or that anyone who disagrees with Obama is. We've been over this too many times, I disagree with his policies, not his skin color.

And finally, I would consider that repeatedly lying to the American people, meets your definition of "knowingly or carelessly putting the American people in harm's way", since some Americans have lost their coverage, and the life saving cancer treatments it provided. Obama lied, people will die.

And no matter what you say, I will not STFU, especially now that you've said it. I'll refrain from entering the sewer.

Lanivan

Based on your interpretation of 'high crimes and misdemeanors', every president since Washington would qualify for impeachment. Here are the facts:

1.) Millions of dollars were spent on special investigations during the Clinton presidency - NO evidence of wrongdoing was found, except for his lying to the American people, under oath about his adultery. Hardly grounds for impeachment. Gee - a man trying to coverup an affair! As angry as I was about it, it made me sick, as a fiscal conservative, to see all the money wasted in service of ideology.

2.) Millions of dollars have been spent on special investigations on Obama and his administration, all with one conclusion:

NO EVIDENCE OF WRONGDOING BY THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE. (Sorry for the caps - don't like to use them - but wanted the special effect.)

They have uncovered some interesting tidbits, among them that the Ohio IRS office that was allegedly 'targeting' Tea Party groups was run at the time by a very conservative right-wing Republican. Ruh-roh!

Tri-cities realist

So lying to the American people and committing perjury are acceptable to you as long as it is the President doing it. Sorry, I expect more from our elected leaders.

I'm somewhat surprised that the money spent on Clinton's investigation is what made you sick, not the fact that the most powerful (married) man in the world took advantage of a female intern in the White House. In the private sector that would be labelled sexual harassment. But again, the President gets to live by different rules than the rest of us.

Lanivan

I said it made me angry - I was terribly disappointed, although, having said that, Clinton is human, and we all knew Bubba had a libido; he does exude virile charisma, even at his age now. No excuses, but it wasn't a complete shock.

Although it was a morally reprehensible thing for him to do, he should never have lied to the American people, but was it an impeachable offense? No.

Now the fact that Gingrich was having an affair with Calista after dumping two wives when they became seriously ill while leading the impeachment proceedings - that's really unacceptable.

At least the Clintons managed to find a way to construct their marriage that works for them.

Tri-cities realist

I see: Clinton affair = ok, Gingrich affair = bad. I get it now, it's ok as long as you have a (D) after your name. Instead why not condemn both men's behavior? At least I'm consistent.

Lanivan

That about sums it up. It's called the 'n' word. Nuance.

I find it gratifying that President Obama seems to be free from all those hang-ups that many powerful men develop.

Tri-cities realist

You have heard the rumor about Obama though, right?

winggirl

It was impeachable because he LIED UNDER OATH.

Tri-cities realist

And I noticed you didn't comment on the main point I made: either Obama knowingly lied, or is so incompetent as a leader, that he didn't know what HHS was doing.

Tri-cities realist

Hmm crickets still. I rest my case.

Lanivan

I don't agree with either premise.

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