Obama admits ‘fumbles,’ but those are just words

An executive communication expert and Twitter observers said the president’s apologies for the difficulties with the rollout of health care reform don’t change much.

“We fumbled the rollout on this health care law.” That was one of President Barack Obama’s admissions of culpability in a Thursday press conference that largely focused on the Affordable Care Act and HealthCare.gov, the troubled website that many Americans have had problems using to sign up for insurance. After opening with a series of numbers—106,000 enrollments since the health care exchanges opened Oct. 1, nearly 400,000 people now eligible for Medicaid who weren’t before—the president launched into a speech of contrition. In particular, he said he understood why some people were frustrated that they received letters from insurers telling them their current policies were being canceled, after President Obama personally made assurances that wouldn’t happen. “I completely get how upsetting this can be,” he said. “I hear you loud and clear.” Fraser Seitel, president of Emerald Partners, says apologizing can only go so far. “When you keep apologizing without fixing performance, you reach a point of diminishing returns,” he says. “People perceive you as a perpetual fumbler, apparently unable to solve the problem.” President Obama did offer a fix, at least a temporary one, saying his administration would change the rules so that people with plans they like will be able to keep them through 2014. Still, several observers seemed to have the same response: We want action, not words.

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