WASHINGTON (CBS DC/AP) — President Barack Obama has been left battered and bruised from what critics have called a disastrous rollout of his signature health care law, which has affected his poll numbers dramatically.
During Friday’s end-of-the-year news conference, Obama was asked by Associated Press reporter Julie Pace if this was the worst year of his presidency.
“That’s not how I think about it,” Obama first stated.
“If you’re measuring this by polls, my polls have gone up and down a lot through the course of my career. I mean, if I was interested in polling, I wouldn’t have run for president,” Obama said. “I was polling at 70 percent was — when I was in the U.S. Senate. I took this job to deliver for the American people, and I knew and will continue to know that there are going to be ups and downs on it.”
Obama cited the troubles he’s had with Congress this past year in trying to get bills passed.
“[A] lot of our legislative initiatives in Congress have not moved forward as rapidly as I’d like. I completely understand that, which means that I’m going to keep at it,” Obama stated.
Obama noted that he will make the “appropriate adjustments” to deal with the fallout of the faulty HealthCare.gov website.
“I’m going to be making appropriate adjustments once we get through this year and we’ve gotten through the initial surge of people who have been signing up,” Obama said.
Obama laid the blame to there not being clear lines of authority.
“Part of it obviously had to do with the fact that there were not clear enough lines of authority in terms of who was in charge of the technology and cracking the whip on a whole bunch of contractors,” Obama said.
Obama also said that he believes 2014 will be a “breakthrough year for America.”
A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that only 43 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama has been doing as president.
The press conference comes a day after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that the millions of Americans who had their current health care policies canceled due to Obamacare will not be hit with tax penalties for failing to line up new coverage.
Sebelius says she will use authorities in the law to issue a “temporary hardship exemption” from those penalties.
Under another stopgap option Sebelius announced Thursday, those whose plans were canceled will be able to buy a bare-bones catastrophic plan regardless of their age. Such plans had been intended for those under 30.
Democrats praised the steps as a common-sense backup in a difficult situation while Republicans panned the administration action as another patch to an unworkable law. The insurance industry immediately criticized the moves.
“This latest rule change could cause significant instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers,” said Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans. Only Wednesday, the industry had announced its own accommodation – giving consumers an extra 10 days to pay January’s premiums.
The Oct. 1 launch of the HealthCare.gov website became an embarrassment for the administration after problems with the online gateway to coverage froze out millions of potential customers. But the biggest political damage to the president has come from cancellations issued to at least 4 million people who had individual plans they purchased themselves. Those plans did not pass muster under the health care law, which generally requires more robust benefits.
On Thursday, the administration estimated at less than 500,000 those who have not yet found other coverage in the wake of seeing their coverage canceled.
Obama was roundly criticized for reneging on a longstanding promise that if you liked your plan, you would be able to keep it under his health care law. The president apologized, and then said insurers could extend those plans for one more year. Most state regulators followed Obama’s lead and gave insurance companies the additional latitude, but it’s unclear whether the problem has been fully resolved.
Although the website is now working more smoothly, there’s still a concern that technology problems may prevent some people who got cancellations from signing up for a new plan. Consumers have until Dec. 23 – Monday – to pick a plan if they want their coverage to take effect Jan. 1, thus avoiding a break in coverage. The industry says it will accept payment of the first month’s premiums until Jan. 10. Timely payment is required for the new plan to take effect.
“There still may be a small number of consumers who are not able to renew their existing plans and are having difficulty finding an acceptable replacement,” Sebelius wrote Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and several of his colleagues, adding: “These consumers should qualify for this temporary hardship exemption.”
Insurers are concerned that healthy customers who potentially would have bought full coverage may now stay out of the market, leaving the companies with a group of patients in worse health overall.
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