Washington (AFP) – U.S. President Barack Obama promised “one last campaign” to save his signature health care reform and slammed critics he said were spreading fear and misinformation about the law.
Obama on Monday vowed to fight to fix rollout problems with Obamacare, the centerpiece of his domestic political legacy, as he met members of his grass roots political group Organizing for Action (OFA).
The rollout of the plan has been hampered by a malfunctioning website which has made it impossible for many potential subscribers to sign up for new coverage.
Critics have also seized on the fact that thousands of people have also had health plans canceled by insurance firms — despite Obama’s repeated promises that they could keep their coverage if they were satisfied with it.
“I have run my last political campaign,” Obama told OFA members at a meeting in a Washington hotel.
“But I will tell you what — I have got one more campaign in me, the campaign to make sure that this law works for every single person in America,” Obama said.
The president also argued that many of his Republican opponents were determined to make the law, intended to offer near universal coverage in America’s private health care system for the first time, fail at any cost.
“It is nothing new to have a bunch of folks spreading fear or misinformation, confusion, cynicism about this law.”
And Obama also finessed his language on existing health care plans in the market for those who pay for their own coverage and do not get it, like most Americans, through insurance linked to their jobs.
“If you have or had one of these plans before (Obamacare) came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you could keep it if it hadn’t changed since the law was passed.”
“If the insurance company changes it, then what we are saying is they have to change it to a higher standard. They have got to make it better.”
That formulation was much more qualified and complicated than the simple line uttered repeatedly by Obama when he was trying to pass the bill that if someone liked their health plan they could keep it.
Republicans have jumped on the inconsistency, saying Obama deliberately misled Americans about the implications of the health care law to get it passed and to insulate himself from political damage before the election last year.
“The most important lesson the president, I think, failed to learn was you have to tell the American people the truth,” said former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney who was vanquished by Obama.
“When he told the American people that you could keep your health insurance if you wanted to keep that plan, period — he said that time and again — he wasn’t telling the truth,” Romney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
The White House counters that the reason some people are getting cancelation notices is that the health plans they hold do not satisfy the superior requirements of Obamacare.
They say that despite scare stories, these Americans will be able to buy new policies on the individual insurance market — once teething problems are worked out with the Obamacare website.
However, it remains possible, and even likely in some cases, that the new plans may be more expensive than the basic older versions.