CAPITOL HILL — President Barack Obama traveled to Boston, Massachusetts, Wednesday to promote his signature health care law, amid widespread criticism of the government’s troubled launch of its health care website. Health insurance coverage has become a contentious political issue in the United States, and the president chose Boston for his speech in order to make a statement.
Health care was a major issue in the 2012 presidential campaign, when Obama defeated former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
Obama chose to speak at the same venue Wednesday where then-governor Romney announced Massachusetts’ law mandating that everyone have health care insurance in 2006.
The president said that back then, Democrats and Republicans came together to win universal health care for everyone in the state. He highlighted the program’s success, and called for some Republican governors across the country to stop trying to derail his health care plan.
“If they put as much energy into making this law work as they do in attacking the law, Americans would be better off,” he said.
When he ran for president, Romney opposed a national mandate for health care insurance, while Obama used the Massachusetts plan as a model for his reform.
Some Republicans are criticizing Obama for repeatedly saying during the 2012 campaign that Americans who like their health insurance can keep it. Under the new law, some individuals have seen their existing policies terminated by insurance companies. Obama said some insurers who had been offering bad plans cancelled those plans, and that people can buy better plans now online.
The president said the Massachusetts plan got off to a slow start, just as the Affordable Care Act has, but that it has proven to be a real success.
Earlier Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appeared before a congressional panel and, for the first time, said she is sorry for the miserable experience many have had trying to sign up for health insurance on the government website.
“You deserve better. I apologize. I am accountable to you for fixing these problems and I am committed to earning your confidence back by fixing the site,” she said.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, a Republican, said ahead of the health care launch that Sebelius and her colleagues repeatedly assured lawmakers that the program was ready for the public.
"But something happened along the way, either those officials did not know how bad the system was, or they did not disclose it. And sadly, here we are not five weeks into enrollment, and the news seems to get worse every day," said Upton.
Sebelius pledged that the government website will be running smoothly by the end of November, and she noted that Americans have until the end of March next year to sign up before they face penalties for not having health insurance under the law. She would not say how many people have signed up for the plan to date.