President Obama says he’s sorry for Americans losing insurance plansBy Eric Pfeiffer, Yahoo News 14 hours ago President Obama said in an interview on Thursday that he’s sorry a number of Americans are being forced to change their health care plans despite previous assurances the Affordable Care Act would allow them to keep their existing plans.”I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me,” Obama told Chuck Todd during an interview with NBC News at the White House.”We’ve got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this.”Obama’s admission represents the latest evolution on the issue dating back to before the Affordable Care Act was even signed into law in 2010. Up through September of this year, Obama was adamant that the Affordable Care Act would not impact Americans who already had their own health insurance.”If you already have health care, you don’t have to do anything,” Obama said in a speech on September 25th speech in Prince George’s County, Maryland.But already 3.5 million Americans have had their healthcare plans cancelled, according to the Associated Press. Most of these are individuals who purchased plans directly from insurers, rather than through a workplace. The reason for the cancellations: their plans changed since the signing of the new healthcare law. While Obama was promising that you could keep your plan if you purchased it prior to the signing of the law on March 23, 2010, what he didn’t say was that if a provider changed the plan its grandfather status would become void.Since individual plans change frequently, the chances of individuals being able to keep their plans was always low. In fact, buried in Obamacare regulations dating back to 2010 is a Health and Human Services estimate that 40 to 67 percent of individual plan owners would lose that coverage because of normal turnover in the individual market.About 80 percent of Americans with health insurance are covered through their employers or a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid. Conservative estimates now project the majority of those 5 percent of Americans who buy their own plans (about 14 million people) will likely have to make some kind of adjustment, sometimes at a higher cost.The White House and administration surrogates have tried to mitigate criticism by contending some of those individuals will actually end up with cheaper and better plans. Nonetheless, Obama’s failure to include the „grandfather” clause in his if-you-like-it-you-can-keep-it speeches has turned into a growing controversy.After the law went into effect in October, early reports began to emerge that Americans who buy their own insurance were starting to get letters from insurance companies informing them that their current plans were being cancelled and that they would need to replace their coverage in order to be in compliance with the Affordable Care Act.White House officials continued to insist that Obama did not “lie” to the American public about the issue. However, throughout October, the administration’s stance continued to evolve.“What the president said and what everybody said all along is that there are going to be changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act to create minimum standards of coverage,” White House Spokesman Jay Carney said on October 28th. “So it’s true that there are existing health care plans on the individual market that don’t meet those minimum standards and therefore do not qualify for the Affordable Care Act.”After four years of sticking to his „if-you-like-your-coverage” promise, Obama recalibrated on Oct. 30. „Ever since the law was passed, if insurers decided to downgrade or cancel these substandard plans, what we said under the law is, you’ve got to replace them with quality, comprehensive coverage because that too was a central premise of the Affordable Care Act from the very beginning,” he explained.Just over a week later, that recalibration has become an apology.Here is a timeline, compiled by The Washington Post, showing how Obama has addressed the “if you like your plan” promise over the past four years:• June 15, 2009, in a speech to the American Medical Association:“That means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”• March 19, 2010, in a speech at George Mason University four days before the ACA became law:“If you like your doctor, you’re going to be able to keep your doctor. If you like your plan, keep your plan. I don’t believe we should give government or the insurance companies more control over health care in America. I think it’s time to give you, the American people, more control over your health.”• October 4, 2012, during the first presidential debate with Mitt Romney:“Number one, if you’ve got health insurance it doesn’t mean a Government takeover. You keep your own insurance. You keep your own doctor. But it does say insurance companies can’t jerk you around.• September 25, 2013, during a speech in Prince George’s County, Maryland:“Now, let’s start with the fact that even before the Affordable Care Act fully takes effect, about 85 percent of Americans already have health insurance -– either through their job, or through Medicare, or through the individual market. So if you’re one of these folks, it’s reasonable that you might worry whether health care reform is going to create changes that are a problem for you – especially when you’re bombarded with all sorts of fear-mongering. So the first thing you need to know is this: If you already have health care, you don’t have to do anything.”• October 30, 2013, during a Boston speech on the Affordable Care Act:“Now if you had one of these substandard plans before the Affordable Care Act became law and you really liked that plan, you were able to keep it. That’s what I said when I was running for office. That was part of the promise we made. But ever since the law was passed, if insurers decided to downgrade or cancel these substandard plans, what we said under the law is, you’ve got to replace them with quality, comprehensive coverage because that too was a central premise of the Affordable Care Act from the very beginning.”
Fed up moderate Republicans to launch strike on Club for GrowthBy Chris Moody, Yahoo News 16 hours agoView gallery FILE – In this Nov. 17, 2004 file photo, then Ohio-Rep. Steven LaTourette speaks in his on Capitol Hill in Washington. The government shutdown could last for many days or even weeks, congressional insiders say, because politically safe members in both parties feel little pressure to compromise. Recent political trends — including heavily gerrymandered districts that make many House Democrats and Republicans virtual shoo-ins for re-election — insulate lawmakers from events and emotions beyond their home regions. Gerrymandering has existed for decades. But election results and lawmakers’ voting patterns show that the House is more sharply divided along party lines than at almost any point in modern times. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)A moderate Republican group that is fed up with the recent onslaught of uncompromising GOP lawmakers and candidates is preparing a multimillion dollar campaign against hardline conservative forces during the 2014 midterm elections.The Main Street Partnership, a center-right activist group led by Steve LaTourette, an Ohio Republican who left Congress earlier this year to join a lobbying firm, aims to spend as much as $8 million to defend sitting Republican lawmakers facing threats from conservative primary challengers.Through a combination of direct mail, online ads and support for grassroots organizing, the Partnership plans to defend several moderate Republican incumbents next year. The group also plans to launch a direct strike on the Club for Growth, a free-market advocacy network that supports conservative challengers to incumbent GOP lawmakers.“To this moment in time we’ve never really fought back, and it’s time to take our party back from these guys,” LaTourette, who left Congress earlier this year, told Yahoo News in an interview. “The center-right of the party has really been out-manned and out-maneuvered by the very conservative wing of the party when it comes to fundraising, when it comes to the ability to put boots on the ground and deliver a message in Republican primaries.”To date, groups like the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund have already formally endorsed a number of conservative challengers to sitting Republicans with records they deem as insufficiently conservative.Some Republicans see these efforts as counterproductive because it forces the incumbents to devote resources to a primary fight that they could be spending on defeating Democrats in the general election. They point to cases in the last two election cycles when tea party candidates defeated more centrist primary opponents only to go on to embarrassing defeats in the general election. The Partnership on Wednesday released a video that pointed to some of those failed candidates — particularly Christine “I am not a witch” O’Donnell in Delaware and Todd “legitimate rape” Akin in Missouri. (The Club for Growth did not endorse either of those candidates.)LaTourette also said inaction in Congress had reached a point of frustration, particularly the failure of House Republicans to find a compromise deal to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” last year and the debate over the government shutdown and debt ceiling last month.The Partnership also hopes it can ward off some of the new conservative challengers next year by targeting the groups that support them. To accomplish this, LaTourette intends to launch a website called “The Club for Democratic Growth” in an attempt to undermine the Club for Growth, he told Yahoo News.“We are going to spend some time educating people as to exactly who they are, and who they are is a small collection of very, very wealthy people who have been able to gain a disproportionate voice in Republican politics,” LaTourette said. “We will be profiling one of their board members or champions on a regular basis with their own words. … We’re going to use their words against them.”Going up against the Club would be a tall order for the Partnership. While LaTourette’s goal is to spend about $8 million for the campaign, the group has only raised about $2 million so far. In 2012, the group’s political action committee spent just $1.1 million.When reached by phone Thursday, a spokesman for the Club said the group was not concerned about the Partnership’s plans for next year.“We don’t really care what some lobbyist has to say about us,” Club spokesman Barney Keller told Yahoo News. “What groups like this don’t understand is that all that matters to the voters are the candidates and the policies that the candidates support,” Keller said. „If being a big government liberal was a ticket to winning a Republican primary then more big government liberals would win Republican primaries. All we do is provide candidates with the resources they need to get the message out and then the voters are the ones picking the candidates.”
View galleryU.S. President Barack Obama speaks about Affordable Health Care to volunteers at the Temple Emanu-El By Roberta Rampton and Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama apologized on Thursday to Americans who are losing their healthcare insurance policies, saying in an interview that he regrets „we weren’t as clear as we needed to be” about the reforms of his landmark healthcare restructuring.Obama’s expression of regret was aimed at placating Americans whose insurance plans are being canceled in spite of his oft-repeated pledge that if people liked their health plans, they would be able to keep them under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.”We weren’t as clear as we needed to be, in terms of the changes that were taking place,” Obama said in an interview with NBC News.”I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me,” he said.The White House has been scrambling to control the damage from the botched October 1 launch of a plan aimed at making sure that the millions without insurance could get medical coverage.The HealthCare.gov website designed to help Americans shop for insurance and see whether they qualify for subsidies has malfunctioned since its launch.Anger has intensified as many Americans discover they stand to lose policies that they assumed would be grandfathered under Obamacare. Insurance companies have been dropping policies purchased or changed since passage of the law if they do not meet its minimum standards.Obama has been lambasted by Republicans who oppose the law and by his fellow Democrats who are angry at the rocky rollout.He has made several speeches in the past month where he took responsibility for fixing the problems, but the NBC interview was the most contrite he has been.Obama said he tried to make the law as „undisruptive as possible” but said „we didn’t do a good enough job in terms of how we crafted the law,” and regretted it.”I’ve assigned my team to see what we can do to close some of the holes and gaps in the law,” Obama said.’WHATEVER IT TAKES’—Obama said he is looking at „a range of options” to help people whose insurance plans are being canceled, although he stopped short of pledging support for proposed legislation that would grandfather more of the policies.Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the U.S. Senate, said in a statement that Obama should support a Republican plan that would let Americans keep existing plans if they wanted.”If the President is truly sorry for breaking his promises to the American people, he’ll do more than just issue a half-hearted apology on TV,” McConnell said.Many lawmakers, including some Democrats, have pressed the White House to extend deadlines for enrolling in insurance plans.Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Republican Senator Mark Kirk introduced legislation on Thursday to delay a $95 penalty for not signing up for insurance by a year, saying Americans should not be penalized while Obamacare is going through its „transition period.But Obama brushed off questions about whether he would support delays.He said he was confident that by the end of November, the HealthCare.gov website would work for the „majority of people,” and he pledged to do „whatever it takes for people to be able to get what is good-quality health insurance at cheaper prices or better insurance for the same price as bad insurance that they’ve got right now.”‘BURNED’ BY HEALTHCARE.GOV—Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas and nine other Republican senators wrote to Obama on Thursday, asking him to „immediately relieve” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from her post because of Obamacare’s problems.Asking in the interview whether he still had full confidence in Sebelius, Obama said the former Kansas governor „has done a great job” in setting up the plan „under tremendously difficult circumstances.””Kathleen Sebelius doesn’t write code,” Obama said, expressing frustration with information technology (IT) problems and procurement policies.”She wasn’t our IT person. I think she’d be the first to admit that, if we had to do it all over again, that there would have been a whole lot more questions that were asked, in terms of how this thing is working,” he said.A powerful oversight committee in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives has asked top Obama technology officials to testify about the website problems at a hearing on Wednesday.During the interview, Obama said he had „been burned” by the dysfunctional website, but he said he has resisted firing anyone for the problems.”Ultimately, the buck stops with me,” he said. „You know, I’m the president. This is my team. If it’s not working, it’s my job to get it fixed.”He said „bureaucratic” and „cumbersome” federal rules for hiring IT contractors often result in waste and cost overruns and pledged to bring rules „into the 21st century” once the website was fixed.”In some ways, I should have anticipated that just because this was important and I was saying this was my top priority. And I was meeting with folks once a month telling them, ‘Make sure this works,'” he said.FRIDAY: THE ECONOMY—On Friday, Obama will travel to the Port of New Orleans to talk about exports and jobs, and will attend Democratic party fundraisers in Miami.The White House will also use the trip to try to highlight that residents of Louisiana and Florida are being hurt by the decisions of their governors to turn down an expansion of Medicaid, a government health insurance program for the poor and some people with disabilities. The expansion is a key plank of Obamacare.”In 24 states, governors and legislatures are blocking this expansion, which means, in clear and stark terms, that they are actively denying coverage to the 5.4 million uninsured Americans who would otherwise gain access to coverage by 2016,” White House aide David Simas told reporters.In Florida, there are 848,000 uninsured residents who could gain access if Republican Governor Rick Scott agreed to expand Medicaid, Simas said. In Louisiana, such a move would benefit 265,000 uninsured people, Simas said.(Additional reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Eric Walsh, Ken Wills and Paul Simao)
Israeli PM ‘utterly rejects’ emerging Iran dealBy MATTHEW LEE and IAN DEITCH 4 hours agoView gallery U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, meets with Palestinian President President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman, Jordan, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Jason Reed, Pool) JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that he „utterly rejects” the emerging nuclear deal between western powers and Iran, calling it a „bad deal” and promising that Israel will do everything it needs to do to defend itself.Israel believes Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon, and says international pressure should be stepped up, not eased, in order to force Iran to dismantle its nuclear program. Netanyahu has repeatedly threatened to attack Iran, unilaterally if necessary, if he concludes that diplomatic pressure on Iran has failed.He spoke before meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry returned to Tel Aviv from Jordan to speak with Netanyahu before flying to Switzerland to participate in nuclear talks with Iran.Kerry’s decision to fly to Geneva comes after signs that global powers and Iran were close to a deal that would cap some of Iran’s suspected nuclear program in exchange for limited relief from economic sanctions.”I understand the Iranians are walking around very satisfied in Geneva as well they should because they got everything and paid nothing,” Netanyahu told reporters.”They wanted relief of sanctions after years of grueling sanctions, they got that. They paid nothing because they are not reducing in any way their nuclear enrichment capability. So Iran got the deal of the century and the international community got a bad deal,” Netanyahu said.”This is a very bad deal and Israel utterly rejects it. Israel is not obliged by this agreement and Israel will do everything it needs to do to defend itself and defend the security of its people,” he said.A State Department official said only that Kerry and Netanyahu met one on one for two hours and 15 minutes.State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed Kerry would go Geneva to meet Friday with the European Union’s top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, and Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran to be an existential threat, citing hostile Iranian rhetoric toward the Jewish state, Iran’s missile capabilities and its support for violent Middle Eastern militant groups.Netanyahu says pressure must be maintained until Iran halts all enrichment of uranium, a key step in producing a nuclear weapon; removes its stockpile of enriched uranium from the country; closes suspicious enrichment facilities and shutters a facility that could produce plutonium, another potential gateway to nuclear arms.Despite Netanyahu’s warnings, there are growing signs that any international deal with Iran will fall short of his demands.The Iranian nuclear program will likely to dominate Friday’s meeting, overshadowing Kerry’s efforts to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.A senior state department official said that Kerry has been open to the possibility of traveling to Geneva for the talks „if it would help narrow differences.”The official said Ashton asked Kerry to attend the latest round of discussions. The official called the negotiations „a complex process” and said Kerry was „committed to doing anything he can” to help.
BEIRUT (AP) — Syria’s main Western-backed opposition group has refused to participate in talks in Moscow with Syrian government organizations on resolving the country’s humanitarian crisis, the Russian Foreign Ministry and opposition figures said Friday.Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said the Syrian National Coalition is „blocking and refusing to participate” in the talks. Russian officials had hoped the talks would bolster prospects for a proposed peace conference the U.S. and Russia are trying to convene in Geneva.The coalition has demanded guarantees, including that President Bashar Assad would step down in any transitional Syrian government, as a condition for going to a conference in Geneva.But Damascus has said Assad will stay in his post at least until his terms ends in 2014 and that he may run for re-election.Friday’s rejection of Moscow talks by Syria’s opposition came shortly after Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Thursday that the opposition had „responded positively” to a proposal for such talks.Kamal Labwani, a member of the coalition, told The Associated Press Friday that the group refused to go to Moscow because „Russia is not a fair mediator and is part of the conflict.” He was referring to Moscow’s support to the Syrian government since the crisis began in March 2011.View gallery.”This image made from citizen journalist video posted by the Shaam News Network, which has been verif …”Russia can become a fair mediator when it orders Assad to leave Syria,” Labwani said by telephone from Paris. „When it (Russia) wants to support the criminal, it will lose.”The coalition has long called on the international community to help secure aid to civilians, particularly in rebel-held areas that have been blockaded by government forces.Lukashevich, the Russian ministry spokesman, said the Moscow initiative had „received an active and positive response among a number of opposition group leaders.””Unfortunately, the Syrian National Opposition and individual leaders who consider it a counterproductive ploy are blocking it and refusing to participate,” he said.Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that the timeline for having a peace conference in Geneva is failing, „primarily because representatives of the opposition aren’t ready to take part without preconditions.” He spoke to reporters after meeting Lamberto Zannier, the Secretary-General of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.View gallery.”In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a man who was wounded when a bomb bl …”This intransigence and these demands are being asserted by the National Coalition, which claims to be the only representative of the Syrian people, but which doesn’t represent even a majority of the opposition groups that are opposing Assad’s regime,” Lavrov said.In Syria, activists said Syrian troops launched Friday a major offensive to recapture the international airport of the northern city of Aleppo.The Aleppo Media Center and the Britain-based Syrian observatory for Human Rights said troops are attacking the base known as „Brigade 80” whose main job was to protect the Aleppo International Airport, which has been closed due to fighting for almost a year.Rebels captured „Brigade 80” in February and now government troops are trying to get it back.The government advance comes a week after government troops captured the strategic town of Safira, southeast of the Aleppo airport, after weeks of fighting.Even though a Moscow meeting would have focused on the Syrian humanitarian crisis alone, it would have represented a breakthrough, with opposition and representatives of governmental groups sitting down at the same table.Syria’s civil war has touched off a humanitarian catastrophe across the region. More than 2 million Syrians have sought refuge abroad, while the U.N. said this week that more than 9 million Syrians — out of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million — are in need of humanitarian assistance.