Obama: 'I'm Sorry' Americans Are Losing Their Insurance

Obama Health Care
Charles Dharapak/AP
By JULIE PACE

WASHINGTON -- 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. 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 hasn't 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 think 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.

-Associated Press writers Jim Kuhnhenn and Josh Lederman contributed to this report.


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907 Comments

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betty_brock

We liberals don't like the word "lie". We like to think of it as "alternative truth".

November 11 2013 at 8:30 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
pllove49

How is my neighbors employer able to offer better insurance to their employees than my employer does?

November 11 2013 at 7:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pllove49

Is obamacare...better or worse than what my employer is offering...that\'s the question...how can I find that out ..

November 11 2013 at 4:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Pastor Ric

WHAT? A politican apologized for something not going as planned and has put a team on finding a way to make it right? How dare he make all the other politicans look bad by admitting things went wrong. Yep, time to impeach him and go back to such mindnumbingly stupid policies as "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!"

November 11 2013 at 8:15 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Pastor Ric's comment
betty_brock

Either way, he lied.

November 11 2013 at 8:29 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
rlcallaway

Obama lied about this from the very beginnng, just as he has lied about everything from his college past to his intimidation of anyone and everyone who disagrees with him. I wouldn;t trust this man if he told me the sun would rise tomorrow. Obamacare has taken a healthcare system with problems and turned it into a twice as expensive disaster. If he was truly sorry he would cancel Obamacare altogether or allow -- as he promised -- those who like their health insurance to keep it.

November 11 2013 at 7:40 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
k4jlp

The insurance industry knew Obama care was coming three years ago. Thats when my company provided health insurance went from a ZERO DEDUCTIBLE to a 3000.00 DEDUCTIBLE. The first 3 grand comes out of my pocket BEFORE they start paying at 80%. They knew they could not change it after the bill passed. And of course by the time I meet the deductible it's the end of the year and it all starts over.

November 11 2013 at 7:23 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to k4jlp's comment
willypfistergash

How is obamacare any better?

And obama lied. Period

November 11 2013 at 8:10 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Dallas

Impeach and undo OBAMA>

November 11 2013 at 7:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dallas

OBAMA is hoping you will get sick while your insurance is cancelled so you can become indebted and broke. This is all part of lowering your standard of living and undoing the American dream. I feel sorry for you folks not be able to stand up against one man.

November 11 2013 at 7:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dallas

Obama needs to pay. If you lost insurance because of OBAMA and get sick you should send OBAMA the bill. A class action law suit is in order for the people through "no fault" of their own whose insurance was cancelled. Actually he needs to be in jail for violating our rights and our constitution. Is there any real American politicians left? General's? Police? FBI? Anyone? Is there a doctor in the house?

November 11 2013 at 7:00 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
OKIE

OBAMA ONE LIE AFTER ANOTHER

November 11 2013 at 6:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply