President Obama sidestepped questions about why he had not fired Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius after the botched rollout of Obamacare, but promised to hold “everyone” responsible “accountable.”
In a pre-Super Bowl interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, Obama was pressed on why he had kept Sebelius in his Cabinet after the health law's new insurance exchanges launched with massive technical issues.
“My main priority right now is making sure that it [Obamacare] delivers for the American people,” said Obama.
“I promise you that we hold everyone up and down the line accountable,” he added. “But when we are midstream, Bill, we want to make sure that our main focus is 'how do we make this thing work?' ”
Obama said that the administration “anticipated there would be glitches” before the launch, but added, “I don’t think anybody anticipated the degree.”
But the president said that the website had been fixed “and now it’s working the way it’s supposed to.”
The president has been criticized for not letting heads roll after the troubled rollout, which led to his lowest approval ratings and left the administration well behind their target of signing up 7 million Americans by the end of the open registration deadline.
Critics say the law was not ready for prime time and question if new Obamacare regulations will leave even fewer Americans with insurance. Reports suggest that millions of Americans could be dropped from private health plans because of the new law, despite Obama’s repeated pledge that consumers could keep their health plans if they liked them.
Asked if making those promises was the biggest mistake of his presidency, Obama said only that it “is one that I regret and I said I’ve regretted.”
When pushed by O’Reilly, Obama hit back: “Bill, you’ve got a long list of my mistakes.”
So far 3 million people have signed up for new Obamacare insurance plans, but the numbers show the administration short of their targets for signing up younger, healthier consumers who can offset older, sicker Americans.