NEW ORLEANS — President Obama, beset by problems with his health-care rollout, sought again Friday to reassure the public he is personally involved in the administration’s effort to fix the program’s malfunctioning website by the end of the month.
“I wanted to go in and fix it myself, but I don’t write code,” he said during a speech at the port in New Orleans. But he pledged that despite the troubled start to the Affordable Care Act, the law ultimately will benefit millions.
“I know health care is controversial, so there’s only so much bipartisan support we’re going to get,” Obama said, “until it starts working really well and they stop calling it ‘Obamacare.’ ”
The New Orleans stop came a day after Obama apologized to millions of Americans who had their low-cost health coverage in the individual marketplace canceled despite his promises that they could keep their plans. Administration spokesman Josh Earnest said the president has instructed aides to examine potential administrative solutions to the matter, but offered no details.
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Obama had hoped to use the remarks in New Orleans to push his proposals to increase U.S. exports and send a message that his administration has not been sidetracked in its bid to improve the economy.
But even as he sought to refocus the conversation on economic growth, he could not escape the political fallout from the health-care mess. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., joined him aboard Air Force One, but she did not appear with him at the port event, citing a conflicting engagement elsewhere in the state.
Landrieu, who is expected to face a tough re-election campaign next fall, has called on Obama to extend the March 31 deadline for the uninsured to purchase health coverage under the Affordable Care Act or face fines. She was among a group of 16 Democratic senators who expressed concern to Obama during a meeting at the White House on Wednesday.
She also introduced a Democratic version of a keep-your-insurance plan Monday. Her bill would allow people to keep their individual health-insurance plans even if the plans didn’t meet the law’s minimum standards. The plans could be kept only as long as the policyholders made scheduled payments.
Landrieu’s bill also would require insurance companies to tell customers which parts of their policies didn’t meet the minimum coverage standards for costs of such things as hospitalization or laboratory tests.
As of Friday, Sens. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., had signed on.
Senate Republicans proposed a similar bill last week. Introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., it would allow people to keep any health-care plan they had from the time the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 through the end of this year. In all, 42 senators support it, all of them Republicans.