WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama said he didn't mean to dupe anyone about the healthcare law, but apologized to those forced off their plans despite "assurances from me."
"I meant what I said," Obama told NBC News amid mounting criticism he misled Americans about the Affordable Care Act when he said for years those who liked their health insurance plans could keep them, even after his healthcare program took full effect at the beginning of next year.
He said he didn't do enough to make sure the law didn't force insurance carriers to end policies that did not meet the law's new coverage requirements.
"It means a lot to them, and it's scary to them. And I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me," Obama said of the 6 million to 8 million people the White House estimates have non-employer insurance plans they bought on their own that are being canceled as of Dec. 31.
"We've got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and that we're going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this," Obama told the network in a White House interview that can be found at tinyurl.com/UPI-Obama-NBC-News.
He said he would "make sure those folks are taken care of" and said most people forced off a current plan would find new insurance that was cheaper and provided better coverage than their old plan.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in response, "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."
"A great place to start," McConnell said in a statement, "would be to support the Johnson bill that would allow Americans to do what the president promised in the first place: keep the plan they have and like."
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., introduced a bill last week, called the "If You Like Your Healthcare, You Can Keep It Act," that would let consumers to keep their current plans under the Affordable Care Act, informally known as "Obamacare."
Obama told NBC he asked his staff to see if there was an administrative fix to preserve insurance for some Americans losing their coverage who don't qualify for subsidies that would make new policies affordable.
"I've assigned my team to see what can we do to close some of the holes and gaps in the law," he said, "because, you know, my intention is to lift up and make sure the insurance that people buy is effective -- that it's actually going to deliver what they think they're purchasing."
He didn't say how he intended to help people faced with paying higher premiums for a new insurance plan, explaining the White House was looking at a "range of options."
Obama said he was "deeply frustrated" by the serious technical problems plaguing the HealthCare.gov website, which went live Oct. 1.
"I take responsibility for that; my team takes responsibility of that," he said. "And we are working every single day, 24/7, to improve it. And it's better now than it was last week. And it's certainly a lot better than it was on Oct. 1."
"I'm confident that it will be even better by Nov. 30 and that the majority of people will be able to get on there, they're going to be able to enroll, they're going to be able to apply and they're going to get a good deal -- a better deal than they've got right now when it comes to buying health insurance," he said.
The administration has said the online portal will be working for most people by the end of the month.
Obama wouldn't say if he might accept a delay in implementing parts of the healthcare law if the website was still not working by the promised date.