Obama proposes health care law fix, tries to lift blame from fellow Democrats

President Barack Obama issued a plan to fix another “fumble” in his signature health care law Thursday, while acknowledging the potential political consequences for his fellow Democrats in 2014.

“There is no doubt that our failure to roll out the (health care law) smoothly has put a burden on Democrats, whether they are running or not, because they stood up and supported this effort through thick and thin,” Obama said.

“I feel deeply responsible for making it harder for them rather than easier,” he said in his nearly hourlong news conference.

Under the plan he announced, people with policies that don’t meet the minimum standards of the Affordable Care Act will be allowed to renew them for a year.

Insurance companies, however, will have to inform those policy holders of protections in the new law, also known as Obamacare,  that are not in their plans.

They also must explain policy holders may have better options on the insurance marketplace and could qualify for Medicaid or tax credits to help offset the costs.

“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 they like, they can keep it,” Obama said. “To those Americans I hear you loud and clear. I said I would do everything we can do to fix this problem and today I’m offering an idea that would help do it.”

Obama has been hammered for weeks with that very promise, that people could keep plans if they liked them.

Republicans have seized on stories of consumers getting notices of canceled policies and increased premiums from their insurance companies who are citing the new law.

But the outrage over canceled policies also has resonated loudly with Democrats who helped him push through the law.

Coupled with the problems with the rollout of the Healthcare.gov website and absence of a Spanish language website, Democrats have begun to have trouble defending the 3-year-old health care law and took their complaints to the president.

On Wednesday, the news worsened as the administration revealed just 26,000 Americans signed up for health insurance plans in the first month that HealthCare.gov was up and running. The total rises to 160,000 when numbers from state-run exchanges are added, far lower than expectations.

The mounting problems have eaten away at the political capital that Democrats enjoyed after the 16-day government shutdown. Republicans shouldered much of the blame for that and suffered in public polls.

The president’s approval rating has reached all-time lows and below 50 percent among Hispanics, according to various polls.

“We just came out of a shutdown and the possibility that for the first time in 200 years we wouldn’t pay our bills,” Obama said. “People breathed a sigh of relief when that finally got done and the next thing they know is that the president’s health care reform can’t get the website to work and there’s these other problems with respect to cancellation notices.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made clear that the fix isn’t going to keep the GOP from beating its drum of criticism of Democrats and the president.

“After finally acknowledging he repeatedly misled the American people to sell his health care law, the president is asking Americans to trust him again,” Boehner said in a statement. “The president has absolutely no credibility on his promise.”

For the plan to work, state insurance commissioners will have to take steps to allow the extensions. Insurance companies will not be allowed to enlist new people in the health coverage plans that would have otherwise been canceled.

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