Humble-sounding Obama tries to climb out of healthcare hole

Humble-sounding Obama tries to climb out of healthcare hole
US president Barack Obama

WASHINGTON - Normally brimming with self-confidence, President Barack Obama showed an emotion on Thursday he rarely shares with Americans: humility.

He strode to a White House podium with a jarring admission: He believes he has lost the confidence of the American people and deserves the blame for the rocky rollout of his signature healthcare law.

The concession was indirect, to be sure, as he spoke of"winning back the confidence of the American people," but nonetheless was unusual in the history of the American presidency, let alone in modern, never-admit-a-mistake Washington.

"There are times I thought we were kind of slapped around unjustly," Obama said, referring to previous criticism aimed his way over the past five years. "This one's deserved."

The healthcare law known as Obamacare - seen as Obama's biggest domestic policy achievement - was designed to bring affordable health insurance to millions of uninsured Americans.

But the launch of a government website to enable people to obtain insurance policies has been marred by technical problems that have often rendered it inaccessible. In addition, insurance companies have cancelled millions of existing policies that failed to meet the law's requirements.

Obama's comments came as he announced a fix designed to stem the wave of cancellations.

Left unspoken was what sort of fix Obama might make in his staff or in how he advances policy objectives with three years left in office and many legislative priorities still unfulfilled, including immigration reform.

Obama admitted that he was never "informed directly" about looming problems with the website launched on Oct. 1.

There was no doubt, he added in yet another remarkable mea culpa, that his oft-repeated promise had turned out to be not accurate - that under his law Americans would be able to keep their health insurance plans if they liked them.

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