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14 Nov, 2013 17:06

Obama changes signature healthcare plan after public backlash

Obama changes signature healthcare plan after public backlash

Facing public outrage over his signature 'Affordable care act', US President Barack Obama announced major changes in the healthcare plan that will allow millions of Americans who were about to lose their cover to keep it for one more year.

The disastrous launch of Obamacare forced the president to change his stance on the "Affordable care act." Only slightly more than 106 thousand Americans have so far obtained insurance under the new healthcare law, according to official data from the Department of Health and Human Services released on Wednesday. Meanwhile, about five million people received notices that their preexisting plans will be cancelled soon and they will have to pay higher premiums to obtain new insurance, Forbes reports.

Only last week, Obama denied that he had ever promised Americans that the majority of them will be able to keep their healthcare plans without changes. But after the media showed multiple videos of the president saying just that, his popularity sunk to an all-time low.

For the first time, the majority of Americans called their president 'untrustworthy and dishonest' and even members of his own party urged Obama to respect his promises. In particular, former president Bill Clinton said on Tuesday in an interview at OZY.com that "The president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they've got." 

Speaking on Thursday, Obama unveiled a one-year plan to allow insurers to keep selling existing plans that are about to be cancelled due to the law’s minimum benefits requirements.

Additionally, insurance companies will be required to explain to their policyholders that the Affordable Care Act offers alternative plans for them. Companies will also have to explain where their existing plans lack the benefits outlined by the law.

The one-year plan will notably end after the 2014 mid-term elections, raising questions about whether or not insurance companies would have to cancel existing cover then, or if Americans could keep them past the one-year mark.

Speaker of the House, John Boehner, responded to Obama’s proposed fixes with skepticism, saying he doubts the president can address problems with the law administratively. Boehner added that the ACA should be repealed entirely.

“I am highly skeptical that they can do this administratively,” Boehner said. “There is no way to fix this.”

Obama acknowledged that the administration “fumbled” the healthcare rollout, but added, “I am confident that by the time we look back on this next year, that people are going to say that this is working well.”

Responding to a question regarding the troubled Healthcare.gov website, Obama said, “I was not informed correctly that the website wasn’t working.” He continued by saying that if he had known it was not ready to launch, he would not have proclaimed how great it was going to be.

Obama added that in terms of the website, Healthcare.gov “will work much better” by the end of November. “The majority of the people going to the website” will find it working the way it’s supposed to, he said. “It’s not possible for me to guarantee that 100 percent of the people” going to the site will have a seamless and smooth experience, he added, but said improvements will continue beyond December 1. 

“Buying health insurance is never going to be like buying a song on iTunes.” It’s a much more complicated transaction, but the experience will be a lot better, he said.

Obama also blamed technical issues on the way government purchases technology, saying it’s “cumbersome and outdated.”

The president added that since he knew this two years ago, he would’ve liked to do more to make sure the process improved.