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ObamaCare architect defends plan, says president not to blame for rollout glitches

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Ezekiel EmanuelFox News

The architect of the Affordable Care Act insisted on “Fox News Sunday” that President Obama isn’t to blame for the rocky rollout of ObamaCare and deflected charges that the administration misled Americans about being able to keep their current health plans.

Ezekiel Emanuel, a bioethicist, was part of the president’s health care reform team for two years and is the brother of former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

“We grandfathered in plans,” Emanuel said.

Host Chris Wallace pressed Emanuel to defend the growing number of cancellation notices sent to people whose plans changed after the law was implemented, but Emanuel could not.

Instead, he blamed much of the problems on insurance companies and not the new law.

“The law does not say ‘Sears drop coverage!’ Sears decides what’s good for Sears,” Emanuel said. “The insurance decides how to make money. When the private companies decide to drop an individual, you blame Obama. He isn’t responsible for that.”

Wallace’s other guest in the segment, James Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, called the grandfather clause in ObamaCare too narrow, adding that “the whole point of the exchanges was to close down the individual insurance market.”

Capretta called out Obama’s pitch to the public about the benefits of the plan and repeated pledges that Americans would be able to keep their current insurance providers if they liked it misleading and says Obama should shoulder the blame.

“There’s no extenuating circumstances,” Capretta said. “It was central to passing the law. He said clearly you can keep your plan. This wasn’t a minor pledge. It was central to the law. He broke that pledge.”

Capretta said the Obama administration “shouldn’t be able to play fast and loose” with people’s medical coverage.

In recent days, a growing number of Democrats have joined Republicans calling to extend the March 31 deadline to sign up for health insurance. They argue that the White House should extend the deadline to make sure that people who want it have enough time to buy it.

Capretta suggested “delaying the whole thing for a year.”

Emanuel did not agree.

“(Americans) will have a full four months to sign up,” Emanuel said. “You can’t prejudge now.”
White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer added a new twist to Obama’s pledge to millions of Americans that they could keep their insurance if they like it.

“[People who are happy with their insurance] can keep it, if it hasn’t been changed or canceled,” he said on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos.

In the days that followed the Oct. 1 rollout, the site has been riddled with problems.

The ObamaCare website shut down Saturday night for “extended” repairs, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Technicians have shut down HealthCare.gov during weekends since the site launched Oct. 1, but just for a few overnight hours.

"The HealthCare.gov tech team is performing extended maintenance this weekend to improve network infrastructure and make enhancements to the online application and enrollment tools,” agency spokeswoman Joanne Peters said Saturday.   

Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified during a congressional hearing that officials are working “24-7” to improve the health insurance website HealthCare.gov. The online portal debuted on Oct. 1 to mostly negative reviews over glitches in the system.

The website was designed to allow people to sign in and sign up for insurance in their state.

It is a part of Obama’s signature health care overhaul.  The law, which was passed with no GOP support, was signed by the president in 2010 as a way to fix the nation’s ailing health care system and providing insurance to millions of people who couldn’t afford it.

Sebelius was grilled for three hours last week by lawmakers who wanted to know why there were so many problems with the system. Sebelius took most of the blame for the botched debut.

Jeffrey Zients, a former White House budget deputy, has said the site will be fixed by the end of the month. Sebelius has also said she feels confident about the Nov. 30 re-launch.