President Barack Obama is trying to make up for an exceedingly dumb promise with a moderately dumb compromise.

When Americans first began complaining last month that the Affordable Care Act meant the cancellation of insurance plans that didn’t meet the law’s coverage requirements, Obama responded that the new plans available under the law were better than what they lost.

That response proved to be politically costly, and Obama Thursday reversed himself, saying that insurers will now be able to offer subpar plans until the end of 2014, if state insurance regulators agree.

The trouble with that compromise is that while Obama’s earlier argument may have been tone-deaf, it was also accurate. If it was bad policy a month ago to let insurers skimp on some essential benefits, it’s still bad policy today.

So Thursday’s announcement supposedly honors the promise Obama made when the law was being debated — the pledge that anybody who likes their current plan can keep it.

Except that’s not true. Insurers have said they won’t revive many of the plans they have already canceled, especially given the logistical challenges involved so close to the start of the new policy year. Even if they do, state regulators may decide not to let them. So for an undetermined number of people, the president’s promise will remain broken.

Bloomberg News (Nov. 15)