Obama offers apology on insurance pledge

After ten days of political pummeling over the cancellation of thousands of health plans, President Obama changed course during an interview with NBC News on Thursday, admitting that his administration had failed to keep his 'if you like it you can keep it' pledge for health insurance.

"I am sorry that they-- you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me," the President said to NBC White House Correspondent Chuck Todd, talking about thousands of Americans who have been told their health insurance is being canceled.

Asked why Americans aren't being allowed to keep their health insurance plans - as he promised - the President seemed to blame his own administration for not following his words.

"Well, first of all, I meant what I said," the President said. "And we worked hard to try to make sure that we implemented it properly. But obviously, we didn't do enough - a good enough job - and I regret that."

What does the President's apology mean and what is the fallout? Let's look at three themes from this debate.

Another new White House strategy choice

When NBC ran the first big story about canceled insurance policies, the White House pushed back hard and said it was false. Then officials laid the blame on health insurance companies. When that didn't quell the furor, the President tried to add a caveat to his own pledge, but that only galvanized the White House Press Corps. The next move was to say that insurance policies weren't being canceled, but that consumers were now being offered better options for health insurance.

Whatever choice the White House made over the last ten days, nothing seemed to stick and nothing seemed to slow down questions from Republicans and the news media.

Obviously, the White House decided to use an interview with NBC to issue this apology, one that Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell derided as "half-hearted."

"I am sorry" won't stop Republicans

Don't look for GOP lawmakers in the Congress to curl up in the corner and give up on the fight over the President's "if you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan" pledge.

"Apologies don't stop cancellation letters," said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA).

"An apology is certainly in order, but what Americans want to hear is that the president is going to keep his promise," said Speaker John Boehner, who noted the House will still vote next week on a bill that would allow Americans to keep their current insurance - just as the President repeatedly said.

Republicans will try to use that vote to put Democrats on the spot - do they support the original pledge of the President or not?

Democrats will feel more heat on health care

A day after 16 Senate Democrats vented their frustration over the troubled roll out of the health law in a closed door meeting at the White House, a third Democrat signed on to a bill that would put the President's original assurance in law, that people can keep their health insurance.

Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) joined Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) in supporting that plan, similar to what the House will be voting on next week.

This week was almost 'open season' for Democrats to take shots at the White House and the Obama Administration on the health care issue, as rank and file Democrats in the Senate railed against the troubled healthcare.gov web site and more.

"Absolutely unacceptable," said Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK).

"The roll out of healthcare.gov has not been smooth - to say the least," said Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).

Because the House was not in session this week, House Democrats have stayed above the fray - but we'll hear from them when they return. Later in the week, Republicans will have them vote on a GOP bill dealing with the Obama promise on keeping your insurance.

Could there be more Democrats breaking with the White House? We'll see.

About the Author