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Obama Moves To Delay Cancellations Of Insurance Plans

President Barack Obama speaking at the White House on Thursday.
Mandel Ngan
AFP/Getty Images
President Barack Obama speaking at the White House on Thursday.
LISTEN: The president's news conference and NPR coverage of it

President Obama announced Thursday that Americans who have had their health insurance plans canceled because of his Affordable Care Act can keep those plans for another year if they wish.

Those cancellations — most effective on Jan. 1 — have sparked intense criticism of the ACA, in part because the president pledged many times that if Americans liked the health plans they had, they wouldn't have to give them up under the terms of his program.

Obama also said that problems with the HealthCare.gov website and with the cancellations of some American's health insurance policies are "on me."

Several times in remarks at a White House news conference, the president turned to football analogies. "We fumbled the rollout on this health care law," he said at one point.

We updated this post as he spoke.

Update at 12:55 p.m. ET. "We're Going To Get This Done":

As we suspected, the president was winding up his remarks. He finishes by saying of the fixes he wants made to the ACA that "we're going to get this done."

Update at 12:52 p.m. ET. "I Am Not A Perfect Man":

He remembers saying when he first ran for president that "I am not a perfect man and I will not be a perfect president," Obama says as he continues to talk about the ACA's problems. But he also said back then, Obama adds, that he would "wake up every day" and work as hard as he can.

Those are pledges he hasn't broken, says the president: He's not perfect and he believes he continues to "work as hard as I can to make things better for folks."

It sounds as if he's winding up the news conference.

Update at 12:47 p.m. ET. "Two Fumbles On A Big Game":

Yet another football reference.

His team has had "two fumbles on a big game, but the game's not over," Obama says — referring to the troubled website and the cancellation of some Americans' insurance plans.

Update at 12:45 p.m. ET. Another Football Reference:

Doing some "Monday morning quarterbacking," Obama says that "two years ago, as we were thinking about this, we might have done more to be sure we were breaking the mold on setting this up."

Update at 12:40 p.m. ET. Majority Of People Will Find The Website Working By Nov. 30, But No Guarantee of Perfection:

Will the HealthCare.gov website be fixed by Nov. 30 as his aides have promised? Obama says that by then "the majority of people that go to the website will see a website that's working the way it's supposed to." But, he adds, "it's not possible for me to guarantee that 100 percent of the people, 100 percent of the time, will have a perfectly seamless, smooth experience."

Update at 12:25 p.m. ET. He Didn't Expect Cancellations:

Obama has come under sharp criticism for saying many times that Americans could keep their health insurance policies if they liked them, only to watch as many received cancellation notices. as the ACA went into effect. He says his expectation was that "98 percent" of policyholders would see no change or find they could get plans with better options, and that others would see their plans covered by the "grandfather clause" that was designed to keep them in place.

It's "on me" that many plans were cancelled, Obama says.

Update at 12:20 p.m. ET. He's Not "Stupid Enough" To Say It Would Work If He Knew It Wouldn't:

Reminded that he said many times before it launched that it would be easy to buy health care insurance on the new HealthCare.gov website, the president says "I was not informed" that there were concerns about whether the website was ready for its Oct. 1 launch.

"I don't think I'm stupid enough to say 'this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity' a week before [the launch] ... if I thought it wasn't going to work," Obama says.

Update at 12:15 p.m. ET. "We fumbled."

"We fumbled the rollout on this health care law," Obama says.

As for his falling approval rating, the president says that "we just came out of a shutdown ... and the next thing [Americans] know is that the president's health care reform can't get the website to work. ... I understand why people are frustrated."

Update at 12:12 p.m. ET. Extending Plans:

He's announcing, Obama says, that "insurers can extend plans that otherwise would be canceled" because they don't meet the new law's basic requirements. Those extensions would go through 2014. The administration is also asking, he says, that those insurers tell policyholders "what protections those new plans don't include" and that the new health insurance exchanges may offer "new options with better coverage and tax credits."

Update at 12:08 p.m. ET. "Problem No. 1":

The president concedes that "problem No. 1" is making sure the HealthCare.gov website "works like it's supposed to."

Update at 12:03 p.m. ET. The President Begins:

Obama is at the microphone. He says he will be taking a few questions at the end of his remarks. First, though, he offers his condolences to the people of the Philippines, where Typhoon Haiyan hit one week ago. He urges Americans to go to WhiteHouse.gov/typhoon to find organization that are assisting people in the Philippines.

Update at 11:50 a.m. ET. Running Late:

As we cautioned, these events often start late. The president hasn't yet come to the microphone at the White House briefing room.

Update at 11:15 a.m. ET. Back On For 11:35 A.M.:

The White House tells NPR that an official's earlier comment that the president would start speaking at 11:45 a.m. ET was a slip. The announcement is still set for 11:35 a.m. ET., the White House says.

That said, the president is often several minutes late at such events. So stay tuned.

Update at 11 a.m. ET. Will Allow Insurers To Renew Current Policies:

NPR is now reporting that sources with knowledge of the announcement say the president "is set to allow insurance companies to renew current private health care policies for one year even if they do not comply with the minimum coverages required by the Affordable Care Act."

In other words, insurers who have notified some policyholders that their plans have been canceled will be told they can contact those policyholders to offer them the old coverage again.

Update at 10:45 a.m. ET. Time Change:

Earlier the White House said Obama would speak at 11:35 a.m. ET. Now, officials say, he's expected to start at 11:45 a.m. ET.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.