President Obama has apologized for pledging repeatedly that Americans who want to keep their existing health insurance plans can do so under his new health care law. Millions of people are now having their health insurance plans canceled, partly because of requirements imposed by that law.
"I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me," Obama said. "We've got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and that we're going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this."
Obama's mea culpa, given during an interview with NBC News Thursday, comes as he endures escalating criticism for misleading Americans about the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare. The administration is also under attack for the embarrassingly weak launch of its enrollment website for the new insurance system. Obama said his administration is working hard to fix the website and it should be functioning much better by the end of November.
Republicans welcomed his apology but wanted more. "An apology is certainly in order," noted House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a statement. "But what Americans want to hear is that the president is going to keep his promise. That's why the House will vote next week to allow anyone with a health care plan they like to keep it. If the president is sincerely sorry that he misled the American people, the very least he can do is support this bipartisan effort. Otherwise, this apology doesn't amount to anything."
But Obama said, "I think we in good faith have been trying to take on a health care system that has been broken for a very long time. And what we've been trying to do is to change it in the least disruptive way possible. I mean, keep in mind that there were folks on the left who would have preferred a single payer plan. That would have been a lot more disruptive.
"There were folks on the right who said, 'Let's just get rid of, you know, employer deductions for health care and give people a tax credit and they can go buy their own health care in their own market.' That would have been more disruptive. ... But obviously we didn't do a good enough job in terms of how we created the law. And you know that's something that I regret. That's something that we're going to do everything we can to get fixed."
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.