US President Barack Obama has announced a change to his signature healthcare legislation. The move comes in response to a wave of anger from Americans who have had their insurance policies canceled.
Obama said on Thursday that Americans would now be able to keep their canceled healthcare plans for another year. The president added that he had heard "loud and clear" from people frustrated by the news that their policies would be canceled despite his repeated promises that the new healthcare legislation would allow Americans to keep their current plans if they wished.
"The bottom line is insurers can extend current plans that would otherwise be canceled in 2014," Obama told reporters at the White House. "And the American people - those who got cancelation notices deserve and have received - an apology from me."
Making matters worse, the website for the president's "Obamacare" legislation has been hampered by glitches and repeated crashes since it went live at the start of October. There are an estimated 40 million uninsured people in the US, but only 106,000 people were able to sign up for health insurance last month. Obama did not promise all of the errors would be corrected by the November 30 deadline, but did say there would be "marked and noticeable" improvements.
Anger on the right
The president had been under significant pressure from his fellow Democrats in Congress to do something about the policy cancelations - a central issue to the healthcare legislation that is bound to take center stage in next year's midterm elections.
Obamacare has received particularly intense criticism from Republicans in Congress, who went as far as to force a government shutdown in October in an attempt to undo it. The president said he would not accept the "brazen" attempts by Republicans to undermine the law and vowed not to "walk away" from the legislation.
"The Affordable Care Act is going to work," Obama said. "We're just going to continue chipping away at this until the job is done."
The Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, questioned on Thursday whether Obama could legally implement the administrative fix, saying the president was "well aware" that his promise that Americans could keep their policies could not be kept.
"The White House does not have much credibility," Boehner said. "The only way to fully protect the American people is to scrap this law once and for all."
Obama, when asked whether Americans had lost trust in his administration, said there was "no doubt people are frustrated."
"This one is deserved, it's on us," he said.
dr/pfd (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)