WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama said his biggest mistake in 2013 was the botched launch of his signature health insurance plan at a press conference on Friday, but would not take the bait when asked about his “lie of the year,” his pledge that nothing would change under Obamacare.
Obama took questions from 11 reporters in his final press conference of the year and just before departing for Hawaii for a 2.5 week vacation, which he always takes on the island of his birth. His body language during the almost hour long session was of a man who was eager to close the book on a grueling year and jump on Air Force One and leave this city for sun for surf.
Obama is wrapping up the toughest year of his presidency, and he was asked about what his biggest mistake was “personally.”
“With respect to health care specifically or just generally?,” Obama said, asking for clarification.
“Well, there’s no doubt that — that when it — when it came to the health care rollout, even though I was meeting every other week or every three weeks with folks and emphasizing how important it was that consumers had a good experience, an easy experience in getting the information they need and knowing what the choices and options were for them to be able to get high-quality, affordable health care,” Obama said.
Still, “the fact is it didn’t happen in the first month, the first six weeks, in a way that was at all acceptable. And since I’m in charge, obviously, we screwed it up.”
“Part of it, as I’ve said before, had to do with how IT procurement generally is done, and it almost predates this year. Part of it obviously had to do with the fact that there were not clear enough lines of authority in terms of who was in charge of the technology and cracking the whip on a whole bunch of contractors. So there are a whole bunch of things that we’ve been taking a look at.”
“And I’m going to be making appropriate adjustments once we get through this year and we’ve gotten through the initial surge of people who have been signing up.”
While Obama has apologized for the malfunctioning Healthcare.gov website, which did not function on the Oct. 1 launch of the massive health insurance rollout and for weeks afterwards.
But he has never said he was sorry for misleading people with his repeated statements though the years, “if you like your health care plan you can keep it.”
The Obama team never factored into Obama’s speeches that a byproduct of the Affordable Care Act was that millions of people with health insurance—most folks with individual policies—would find they could not renew them. That’s because under the new law, many existing policies were deemed to offer insufficient coverage and could not be sold in 2014.
The non-partisan Politifact deemed that Obama “nothing will change” statement its “lie of the year.”
Jackie Calmes of the New York Times asked Obama, “Since we’ve been looking back at the year, I’d like to ask you what your reaction was to the nonpartisan truth-telling group PolitiFact when it said that the Lie of the Year was your statement that if you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” coupling that query with one about Iran sanctions.
Obama did not acknowledge the “lie of the year” in his reply. “On the health care question — look, I think I’ve answered it several times — this is a new iteration of it — but bottom line is that, you know, we are going to continue to work every single day to make sure that implementation of the health care law and the website and all elements of it, including the grandfather clause, work better every single day.”