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Obama's Efforts to Fix Health Care Draws Mixed Reviews

  • Pamela Dockins

President Barack Obama makes a statement before the start of a meeting with representatives of health insurance companies, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in Washington, Nov. 15, 2013.

President Barack Obama makes a statement before the start of a meeting with representatives of health insurance companies, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in Washington, Nov. 15, 2013.

U.S. President Barack Obama is taking steps to correct problems that have plagued his health care reform program since its launch in October. There is debate over whether the president has made enough changes to the program to quell discontent.

The Obama administration says it is working to fix problems with the government's health care website.

Many Americans have been frustrated by the site's technical glitches, which have prevented them from buying health insurance.

This past week, Obama offered a fix to another problem that is causing some Americans to lose their health care policies under his new program. The president said insurance companies could now give these people the option of keeping their old plans for an extra year.

"Now this fix won't solve every problem for every person but it is going to help a lot of people," said the president.

Michael Consedine, the insurance commissioner of Pennsylvania and secretary-treasurer of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, said the president's fix could wind up causing confusion. "That fix is a very temporary one and may ultimately cause far greater harm to the insurance marketplace in allowing different products and different policies to continue in a marketplace where we thought there would be a lot more uniformity."

On Friday, the Republican-majority House of Representatives voted to make even more changes. A bill passed with the support of some House Democrats that would allow insurance companies to sell policies that lack all the health care reform mandates and renew customer policies that had been canceled.

The bill's fate in the Senate is uncertain.

Consedine said rapid changes in insurance policies and rates could become problematic at the state level. "We really are feeling like sort of like a ship out on the waves being tossed and turned. The prevailing winds go one direction one day and another the next."

Anne-Marie Slaughter is a former director of policy planning at the State Department and the current head of the New America Foundation, a public policy institute. On VOA's Press Conference USA, she predicted Obama would be able to weather the health care storm.

"I think that the need for health care overhaul is so great and already a million people have gotten insurance and there are millions and millions more who need insurance. I think he is going to be able to ride this out," said Slaughter.

Slaughter, however, said the health care controversy could be harmful to the president's Democratic Party in next year's mid-term elections.
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