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Obama moves to allow Americans to extend canceled health plans

November 14, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
President Obama made a move to keep his promise and put out a political firestorm by allowing people to keep their recently canceled health care plans for at least one year. His response came after millions of Americans received cancellation notices for existing insurance policies that were not compliant with the ACA.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama moved today to put out a political firestorm and let people keep their existing health insurance policies for now. He said the government will suspend the requirement that individual plans meet minimum standards at least for one year. It’s up to insurance companies to decide if they will go along.

In the White House Briefing Room, the president acknowledged the outcry by the public and politicians, and said he bears much of the blame.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I think it’s fair to say that the rollout has been rough so far, and I think everybody understands that I’m not happy about the fact that the rollout has been, you know, wrought with a whole range of problems that I’ve been deeply concerned about.

I completely get how upsetting this can be for a lot of Americans, particularly after assurances they heard from me that if they had a plan that they liked, they could keep it.

And, to those Americans, I hear you loud and clear. I said that I would do everything we can to fix this problem. And, today, I’m offering an idea that will help do it.

Already, people who have plans that predate the Affordable Care Act can keep those plans if they haven’t changed. That was already in the law. That’s what’s called a grandfather clause that was included in the law. Today, we’re going to extend that principle both to people whose plans have changed since the law took effect and to people who bought plans since the law took effect.

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Now, this fix won’t solve every problem for every person, but it’s going to help a lot of people.

There is no doubt that people are frustrated. And I think it’s legitimate for them to expect me to have to win back some credibility on this health care law in particular and on a whole range of these issues in general.

And, you know, that’s on me. I mean, we fumbled the rollout on this health care law. And we should have done a better job getting that right on day one, not on day 28 or on day 40.

I am confident that, by — by the time we look back on this next year, that people are going to say, this is working well, and it’s helping a lot of people.

But my intention in terms of winning back the confidence of the American people is just to work as hard as I can, identify the problems that we’ve got, make sure that we’re fixing them, whether it’s a website, whether it is making sure that folks who got these cancellation notices get help. We’re just going to keep on chipping away at this until the job is done.

On the website, I was not informed directly that the website would not be working as — the way it was supposed to. Had I been informed, I wouldn’t be going out saying, boy, this is going to be great.

You know, I’m accused of a lot of things, but I don’t think I’m stupid enough to go around saying, this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity a week before the website opens if I thought that it wasn’t going to work.

So, clearly, we and I did not have enough awareness about the problems in the website.

And the American people, those who got cancellation notices do deserve and have received an apology from me, but they don’t want just words. What they want is whether we can make sure that they’re in a better place and that we meet that commitment.

And, by the way, I think it’s very important for me to note that, you know, there are a whole bunch of folks up in Congress and others who made this statement, and they were entirely sincere about it.

There is no doubt that our failure to roll out the ACA smoothly has put a burden on Democrats, whether they’re running or not, because they stood up and supported this effort through thick and thin, and, you know, I feel deeply responsible for making it harder for them.

There have been times where I thought we were — got, you know, slapped around a little bit unjustly. This one’s deserved, all right? It’s on us.

But we can’t lose sight of the fact that the status quo before the Affordable Care Act was not working at all. If — if the health care system had been working fine and everybody had high-quality health insurance at affordable prices, I wouldn’t have made it a priority.

We wouldn’t have been fighting this hard to get it done, which is why when I see sometimes folks up on Capitol Hill, and Republicans in particular, who have been suggesting, you know, repeal, repeal, let’s get rid of this thing, I keep on asking, well, what is it that you want to do? Are you suggesting that the status quo was working? Because it wasn’t, and everybody knows it. It wasn’t working in the individual market, and it certainly wasn’t working for the 41 million people who didn’t have health insurance.

But it is complicated. It is hard. But I make no apologies for us taking this on, because somebody, sooner or later, had to do it.

I do make apologies for not having executed better over the last several months.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The nation’s health insurance companies quickly answered that the president’s offer comes too late. The industry’s main trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, issued a statement that said: “Changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers”

State insurance commissioners also objected.

And, in Congress, House Speaker John Boehner dismissed the plan even before the president announced it.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: Of course, no one can identify anything the president could do administratively to keep his pledge that would be both legal and effective.

Now, let’s be clear. The only way to fully protect the American people is to scrap this law once and for all. There is no way to fix this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The House is expected to vote tomorrow on a Republican bill that lets existing plans stay in force.