Obama pivots to economy, but health care woes persist

U.S. President Barack Obama talks about the importance of growing the U.S. economy while at the Port of New Orleans in Louisiana, November 8, 2013. Larry Downing / Reuters

Even as President Barack Obama tried to shift attention toward positive economic news, the woes of his health care rollout remained as he vowed to “fix” implementation problems.


A day after the president told NBC’s Chuck Todd in an exclusive interview that he is "sorry" some Americans are losing their current health insurance plans as a result of the Affordable Care Act, Obama promised fixes to the system, specifically the program’s glitchy online portal.

"I wanted to go in and fix it myself, but I don't write code," he said of

“We're going to fix the website, because the insurance plans are there, they are good, and millions of Americans are already finding that they'll gain better coverage for less cost and it's the right thing to do,” he said from the Port of New Orleans.

“I know health care's controversial, so, you know, there's only going to be so much support we get on that on a bipartisan basis -- until it's working really well, and then they're going to stop calling it ‘Obamacare,’" he joked.

In the NBC interview from the White House he said, “I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me."

Also on Thursday, Obama continued to defend Health and Human Services chief Kathleen Sebelius, who faced a second tough grilling on Capitol Hill this week.

“Ultimately, the buck stops with me. You know, I'm the president. This is my team,” he said. “If it's not working, it's my job to get it fixed.”

Long-sought numbers indicating how many Americans have signed up for health insurance under the new law so far are expected to be released next week. Sebelius has predicted that those early enrollment will be “very low.”

The president was seeking to put the emphasis on the economy on a day when new data showed that employment surged by a net 204,000 jobs in October even as the unemployment rate rose to 7.3 percent. Those numbers exceeded analysts’ predictions of job creation after the lengthy government shutdown brought on by partisan disagreement over the health care law.


“The unemployment rate still ticked up and we don't yet know all the data for this -- this final quarter of the year, but it could be down because off what happened in Washington, “ he said. “Now that -- that makes no sense. These self-inflicted wounds don't have to happen. They should not happen again. We should not be injuring ourselves every few months.”

Obama said there’s “no question” that the federal government shutdown hurt the nation’s job market.

He also called for more spending on big infrastructure projects, declaring, "We should be building, not tearing things down."

“Rather than refighting the same old battles again and again and again, we should be fighting to make sure everybody who works hard in America, and hard right here in New Orleans, that they have a chance to get ahead. That's what we should be focused on.”