Obama tries to dig out of his big Obamacare hole
WASHINGTON — While President Barack Obama held a news conference on Thursday where he announced an administrative fix to the Affordable Care Act, it quickly digressed into a confession and apology hour.
He took the blame. He called the rollout of Obamacare “rough.” He said he “fumbled.” He said the problems are “on me.”
He also offered an olive branch to his colleagues on Capitol Hill and acknowledged his party’s tough circumstances.
“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,” Obama said.
“I feel deeply responsible for making it harder for them, rather than easier for them,” he added.
It’s tough to be a Democrat now
Less than a month after the government shutdown during which the Republican Party seemed doomed for a generation — or at least through 2014 — the Democrats are now nervously tapping wondering what went so miserably wrong.
The botched Obamacare rollout has put political pressure on the Democratic Party as members backed the President health care agenda as he said on Thursday “through thick and thin.”
Obama’s self-deprecating confession, combined with his administrative “fix” to allow people in the individual market to keep their current insurance plans, did not, however, completely alleviate concerns of Democratic lawmakers.
Obama unveiled remedies for people whose insurance plans have been canceled, despite repeated assurances that if you like your plan you can keep it.
He said the federal government “isn’t going to get in the way” of insurance companies offering plans to existing customers in the individual insurance market that don’t meet minimum coverage requirements.
For instance, Senator Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, said she is still going to push her legislation that would also address the problem. And Senator Kay Hagan, D- North Carolina, told CNN she is inclined to support Landrieu’s bill. It goes a little bit further and has more teeth.
Both Landrieu and Hagan are up for re-election next year. They are not alone. A handful of other Democratic Senators have to tread carefully as do dozens of Democratic House members.
The President’s announcement came as Democrats repeatedly rang alarm bells over the canceled plans. Former President Bill Clinton chimed in, saying Obama should keep his promise.
Some Democrats say it doesn’t go far enough because the onus is on insurance companies and state insurance commissioners to extend the plans for an additional year.
The insurance trade lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans, released a statement saying the last-minute changes could “destabilize the market and result in higher premiums.”
Insurance cancellations exist on top of a troubled website and lower-than-expected enrollment figures.
The real test on whether Obama alleviated Democratic concerns will be if Democrats back a Republican proposal Friday by Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan that would largely undermine Obamacare.
Upton’s bill would allow affected insurance plans to extend into next year and gut a major part of the Affordable Care Act by allowing anyone — not just the 5% of people in the individual market place – to purchase low-coverage plans.
Obamacare prohibits discrimination for preexisting conditions and mandates coverage for mental health, prenatal care and other issues. This is a primary reason why insurance companies are dropping existing coverage.
With the problems facing Obamacare, public opinion of the President has declined. His approval rating among American voters has dropped to its lowest number in a Quinnipiac University polling since he became President with new doubts being raised about trust. Fifty two percent of respondents said the President is not trustworthy.
Obama appeared to understand the severity.
“I am not a perfect man and I will not be a perfect President, but I’ll wake up every single day working as hard as I can on behalf of Americans out there,” he said.
CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley said Obama’s diminished trustworthiness will make the remaining implementation of Obamacare challenging.
“It’s going to be more and more difficult every day,” Crowley said.