President Barack Obama cried mea culpa Thursday for the problematic rollout of Obamacare and the cancellation of insurance policies he had assured millions of Americans they could keep if they liked when the new healthcare law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
"Well, first of all, I meant what I said. We worked hard to try to make sure we implemented it properly. Obviously, we didn't do a good enough job. I regret that. We are talking about five percent of the population who are in what's called the individual market," said Obama in the run-up to his apology in an exclusive interview with NBC News.
"They are out there buying health insurance on their own. Even though it only affects a small amount of the population, it means a lot to them, obviously, when they get this letter cancelled. You know, I am deeply concerned about it," he explained.
Republicans have roundly criticized the president for his unfulfilled promise to the estimated 12 million Americans who purchase individual health insurance policies privately since some of them began receiving letters discontinuing their health coverage because their policies don't meet requirements under the new healthcare law for more comprehensive care.
When asked if he felt he owed them an apology for misleading them for years, even if it happened unintentionally, Obama reiterated his regret for what happened then apologized.
"I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me," said Obama. "We've got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and that we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this," he said.
Obama also noted that his Administration is working hard to have Healthcare.gov running smoothly by Nov. 30, but failed to say whether or not the enrollment period for the health exchanges would be extended if the website was functioning properly by the end of the month.
"I'm deeply frustrated about how the website has not worked over the first couple of weeks. I take responsibility of that. My team takes responsibility of that. We are working every single day, 24/7 to improve it," he said.
When asked if he had full confidence in Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, he said she has done a "great job" under the circumstances.
"I think Kathleen Sebelius, under tremendously difficult circumstances over the last four and a half years, has done a great job in setting up the insurance markets. So there is a good product out there for people to get. Kathleen Sebelius doesn't write code. She wasn't our IT person," said Obama.
Responding to a question on whether Sebelius was still the right person to get the website done, Obama replied: "Ultimately, the buck stops with me. I'm the president. This is my team. If it's not working, it's my job to get it fixed."