Obama ‘sorry’ for health insurance cancellations

WASHINGTON -- President Obama apologized Thursday for the fact that some people are losing their current health insurance plans even though he had told Americans they could keep their plans if they wanted to, saying his administration was working on changes to his healthcare law to address the problem.

“I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me,” the president told NBC News in an interview that aired Thursday evening.

“We’ve got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this,” Obama said.

Ever since the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, Obama has repeatedly told people that, if they liked their health plans, they could keep them. Obama made such assurances as recently as this spring.

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In fact, the law only extends that guarantee to health plans purchased before the law’s enactment. Many individual insurance plans bought since the law passed in 2010 are being canceled because they don’t meet the law’s minimum requirements for coverage. As many as 4 million people who purchased coverage on the individual market may be forced to switch plans.

Obama suggested he was open to changes in parts of the law but did not offer specifics.

“I’ve assigned my team to see what we can do to close some of the holes and gaps in the law -- because, you know, my intention is to lift up and make sure the insurance that people buy is effective,” he said.

He also promised to find a solution for those who are losing plans they like and paying a higher premium not offset by government subsidies.

“We also want to make sure that nobody is put in a position where their plans have been canceled, they can’t afford a better plan even though they’d like to have a better plan,” Obama said. “And so we’re going to have to work hard to make sure that those folks are taken care of.”

A White House aide said officials are looking for an administrative solution to the problem but did not know what that might be.

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Earlier this week, the president changed his statements to explain that only people with plans purchased before the March 2010 passage and unchanged since then would be grandfathered into the system.

In the Thursday interview, Obama argued that most of the changes to the individual market are for the better, adding protections and minimum standards to plans he called “subpar.”