Obama Apologizes for People Losing Health Coverage (Updated)

Posted November 7, 2013 at 6:08pm

Updated 7:24 p.m. | After weeks of trying to finesse the issue of millions of Americans losing their health insurance plans despite the oft-repeated promise that they could keep them if they liked them, President Barack Obama has apologized.

“I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me,” Obama told NBC News’ Chuck Todd on Thursday.

“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.”

The president also said he was deeply frustrated by the woes of HealthCare.gov and will do “whatever it takes” for people to get access to quality insurance.

Republicans immediately pounced on Twitter, with Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wondering if the president would now agree to changing the law so people can keep their plans.

The apology comes a day after Senate Democrats facing re-election in 2014 vented anger at the Obamacare rollout during a two-hour session at the White House.

Earlier Thursday, Press Secretary Jay Carney again deflected questions on the subject, declining to say whether the White House would support legislative fixes, such as one by Sen. Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, one of the Democrats up for re-election, that would allow people to stay on their plans and thus keep the president’s promise.

The insurance industry isn’t keen on Landrieu’s legislation. Johnson, R-Wis., meanwhile, would allow insurers the option to keep current plans.

The House, meanwhile, next week is scheduled to vote on a proposal by Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., that would also give insurers the option of continuing those plans.

Also Thursday, 10 Republican senators wrote a letter to Obama urging him to fire Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over the rollout: Pat Roberts of Kansas, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, Jim Risch of Idaho, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, John Barrasso of Wyoming, James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

The president said Sebelius has done a great job setting up the insurance market but said that she “doesn’t write code” and would be the first to admit that more questions should have been asked.

“Ultimately the buck stops with me,” Obama said.