Obama goes from glossing over health care issues to apologizing


More than five weeks after the botched HealthCare.gov rollout, President Obamaacknowledged in an interview with NBC News, “The buck stops with me. You know, I’m the president. This is my team. If it’s not working, it’s my job to get it fixed.”


The president also said he’s “sorry” that millions of Americans are being dropped from insurance plans that don’t meet the minimum coverage standards set by Obamacare.


“I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me,” he said.


The president’s repentant tone was weeks in the making.


On Oct. 1, the day the administration launched HealthCare.gov, the federal website that serves as a portal in 36 states to the new Obamacare marketplace, Mr. Obama minimized the website’s technical problems and focused on the silver lining: People have shown interest in the marketplace.


  • Dealing with health care woes, Obama pivots to the economy
  • In depth: Obamacare kicks off


The traffic on the site, Mr. Obama said, “exceeds anything that we had expected,” leading to the site’s problems. The high traffic, he said, “gives you a sense of how important this is to millions of Americans across the country, and that’s a good thing.” The president pointed out that Apple had recently rolled out a glitchy operating system, but “I don’t remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads.”


Three weeks later, after it became clear that the website’s problems went far beyond heavy traffic, Mr. Obama said from the White House Rose Garden “there’s no sugar-coating” the issues. Still, the point of his remarks that day was to defend the law. “The essence of the law — the health insurance that is available to people — is working just fine,” he said.


By the end of October, it became clear that members of the administration knew about the website’s problems before its launch. Amid reports of failed HealthCare.gov test runs, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius apologized for the dysfunctional website.


Around that same time, the administration started taking heat for the millionslosing their insurance on the individual market.


The same day Sebelius apologized, Mr. Obama went to Boston — the birthplace of the Massachusetts health care law that inspired Obamacare — and said he stood by his promise that those who liked their coverage before the Affordable Care Act became law could keep that coverage. His opponents suggested that people were losing insurance “somehow because of the Affordable Care Act,” Mr. Obama said, arguing that, in fact, consumers only lost coverage if insurers altered their policies after the health law took effect.