President Obama says 2013 wasn't worst of his presidency, but says of healthcare.gov: 'We screwed it up'

McClatchy Washington BureauDecember 20, 2013 

US NEWS OBAMA-HEALTHCARE 1 ABA

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the Afforable Care Act in the Rose Garden of the White House on Monday, October 21, 2013.

OLIVIER DOULIERY — MCT

President Barack Obama rejected the suggestion that 2013 -- marked by the chaotic rollout of his signature legislative accomplishment -- was the worst year of his presidency, as some polls suggest.

"If I was interested in polling, I wouldn't have run for president," Obama said. "I took this job to deliver for the American people."

He cited improving economic numbers, more jobs and increasing enrollment on health.care.gov to argue that his administration made progress.

"What I've been focused on each and every day is, are we moving the ball helping the American people, families, have more opportunity, have a little more security, to feel as if they work hard, they can get ahead," he said.

Obama suggested that reports of his political decline have been overstated, joking to a crowded house of reporters at the briefing room in the White House that "I think this room has probably recorded at least 15 near-death experiences."

Obama hailed the bipartisan budget deal that Congress sent to him earlier this week, calling it a "good start" that unwinds some of the sequester cuts and avoids the "threat of another reckless shutdown.

"It’s probably too early to declare an outbreak of bipartisanship, but it’s also fair to say that we’re not condemned to endless gridlock," Obama said. "There are areas where we can work together."

Obama said his biggest regret about the past year -- which saw his job approval ratings slide to historic lows -- was the chaotic introduction of the healthcare website: "Since I'm in charge," he said, "We screwed it up."

Obama opened the last press conference of the year, declaring that the U.S. economy is on the mend and calling for 2014 to be "a year of action."

Saying the economy is doing better than it was a year ago, Obama said "I firmly believe that 2014 can be a breakthrough year for America."

He said the Affordable Care Act has helped keep health care costs growing at their slowest rate in 50 years. And acknowledging the problems the website has incurred, he boasted that more than half million people enrolled on healthcare.gov in the first three weeks of December.

"All told, millions of Americans, despite the problems with the website, are now poised to be covered by quality affordable health insurance come New Year’s Day," he said.

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