President Obama: "I completely get how upsetting this can be for a lot of Americans... To those Americans, I hear you loud and clear."
President Obama has announced a one-year reprieve for millions of Americans facing cancelled insurance plans under his healthcare law. A contrite Mr Obama said his administration "fumbled the rollout" of his flagship domestic achievement.
Companies discontinued the policies as they did not meet new minimum requirements under the legislation. A separate problem with the law is the glitches plaguing the federal website set up to sell the new insurance. On Thursday, Mr Obama said improvements to the website, which was launched last month, would be "marked and noticeable" by the end of November.
In the White House briefing room, Mr Obama also acknowledged the flaws with the law's rollout had put a "burden" on his fellow Democrats.
It is no coincidence that a new poll shows 52% of Americans now don't trust the president - his worst ratings ever. He says he gets it, understands how upset people are, and understands he has to win back some credibility. So people will now be able to keep their old plan for another year.
There are a number of problems with the president's fix. It is debatable if his reputation will be changed by a tweak that makes his original words true - for another twelve months.
The bigger problem is that he has to stop the momentum that leads people to see this as a flawed plan that doesn't work in practice. The ideology and the policy matter. Of course they do. But not as much as whether it works, and whether people like what they get.
Many of his political allies fear a backlash in the November 2014 mid-term elections over the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act, known on both sides of the political divide as Obamacare.
In recent weeks insurance companies have sent letters to their customers announcing the cancellation of coverage that does not meet the strict new requirements of the law. On Thursday, Mr Obama bowed to a wave of anger from consumers and members of Congress who have lambasted him for not keeping his promise that people would be able to keep their existing health plans. He said that insurers could renew for one year the policies that have been cancelled.
Under the change, insurance companies that extend those plans will be required to notify customers of which medical care they do not cover, and inform them that other insurance options offering better coverage may be available.
Mr Obama also said he expected to have to "win back" credibility and the "confidence" of the American people in the wake of ongoing issues with the health law.
"I completely get how upsetting this can be for many Americans," he said. "To those Americans: I hear you loud and clear."
It is unclear how many will be affected by the fix. White House officials said that state insurance commissioners would have to allow it to go ahead and it would be up to insurance firms to renew the plans. However, two insurance groups swiftly questioned Mr Obama's solution. America's Health Insurance Plans, the lobbying arm of the industry, said the proposed fix could "destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers".
What does 'Obamacare' do?
- Establishes healthcare. gov federal website selling medical insurance and others run by the states
- Bolsters coverage requirements
- Mandates that most Americans be enrolled for health coverage by 31 March 2014 or pay a tax penalty
- Offers subsidies to those eligible to assist in the purchase of the insurance
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners said in a statement that it was unclear how Mr Obama's proposal could be put into effect. Ahead of the president's announcement, Republican House Speaker John Boehner insisted it was time to "scrap this law once and for all"."You can't fix this government-run healthcare plan called Obamacare," he said of the legislation, which relies mostly on health insurance plans offered by private, for-profit companies. "It's just not fixable."
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is still working to fix its malfunctioning healthcare.gov website, established by the law to enable consumers who do not get health insurance through their employers or through government benefits to shop for coverage.