Obama orders major change in troubled health plan
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama announced major changes to the health care plan that was meant to be his legacy, amid major pressure from fellow Democrats who are nervous about next year’s elections and opposition Republicans who never wanted the program anyway.
Still, the president said Thursday he was not going to “walk away from” the law that would help tens of millions of Americans to afford health insurance and that has brought down the cost of health care.
Obama announced the continued sale of private insurance plans that have been canceled for millions of Americans because they failed to meet coverage standards under the overhaul. The cancellations came despite Obama’s promise that his signature legislation would allow all Americans to keep their current insurance plan if they liked it.
“The affordable care act is going to work,” Obama told White House news conference. “We’re just going to continue chipping away at this until the job is done. He repeatedly took responsibility for the problems involved in the plan’s launch.
The president’s approval ratings in polls are dropping.
Obama has been under pressure from Democrats in Congress to be flexible on the cancellation issue, which is just one of the several problems hurting the health care rollout that promises to be at the center of next year’s midterm elections for control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Obama and members of his administration are conscious that the health plan, fought over all the way to the Supreme Court, will have a determining effect on how history judges his presidency. The United States has been the only developed country without a national health care system.
The deeply troubled rollout that began Oct. 1 has given Republicans a new line of attack ahead of the elections, which they hope will offset the criticism they took over last month’s 16-day partial government shutdown — when they tried to defund what’s commonly called “Obamacare.”
House Speaker John Boehner, a top Republican in Congress, said it was time to scrap the law “once and for all.”
Officials said letters were going out to insurance companies on Thursday informing them they could continue to sell existing individual policies to current customers for 2014, even in cases of plans that had been ruled inadequate under the new law.
At the same time, the administration is promising improvements in a federal website with technical problems so extensive that enrollments in October totaled fewer than 27,000 in 36 states combined.
Adding in enrollment of more than 79,000 in the 14 states with their own websites, the nationwide number of 106,000 October sign-ups was barely one-fifth of what officials had projected — and a small fraction of the millions who have received private coverage cancellations.
“That’s on me,” Obama said of the bungled start.
Associated Press writers Steven R. Hurst, David Espo, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Julie Pace contributed to this report.