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Few options for Obama to fix cancellations problem

By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 05:26 a.m. HST, Nov 09, 2013


WASHINGTON >> President Barack Obama says he'll do everything he can to help people coping with health insurance cancellations, but legally and practically his options appear limited.

That means the latest political problem engulfing Obama's health care overhaul may not be resolved quickly, cleanly or completely.

White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday that the president has asked his team to look at administrative fixes to help people whose plans are being canceled as a result of new federal coverage rules. Obama, in an NBC interview Thursday, said "I am sorry" to people who are losing coverage and had relied on his assurances that if they liked their plan, they could keep it.

The focus appears to be on easing the impact for a specific group: people whose policies have been canceled and who don't qualify for tax credits to offset higher premiums. The administration has not settled on a particular fix and it's possible the final decision would apply to a broader group.

Still, a president can't just pick up the phone and order the Treasury to cut checks for people suffering from insurance premium sticker shock. Spending would have to be authorized by law.

Another obstacle: Most of the discontinued policies appear to have been issued after the law was enacted, according to insurers and independent experts. Legally, that means they would have never been eligible for cancellation protections offered by the statute. Its grandfather clause applies only to policies that were in effect when the law passed in 2010.

More than five weeks after open-enrollment season started for uninsured Americans, Obama's signature domestic policy achievement is still struggling. Persistent website problems appear to have kept most interested customers from signing up. Repairs are underway. Friday the administration said the website's income verification component will be offline for maintenance until Tuesday morning. An enrollment report expected next week is likely to reflect only paltry sign-ups.

Website woes have been eclipsed by the uproar over cancellation notices sent to millions of people who have individual plans that don't measure up to the benefits package and level of financial protection required by the law.

"It was clear from the beginning that there were going to be some winners and losers," said Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, who supports the health overhaul. "But the losers are calling reporters, and the winners can't get on the website."

In the House, a Republican-sponsored bill that would give insurers another year to sell individual policies that were in effect Jan. 1, 2013, is expected to get a floor vote late next week. In the Senate, Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu has introduced legislation that would require insurers to keep offering current individual plans. Democrats, who as a group have stood firmly behind the new law so far, may start to splinter if the uproar continues.

The legislation faces long odds to begin with, but it may not do the job even if it passes. The reason: States, not the federal government, regulate the individual insurance market. State insurance commissioners have already approved the plans that will be offered for next year. It may be too late to wind back to where things stood at the beginning of this year.

"It has taken the industry many months to rejigger their systems to comply with the law," said Bob Laszewski, a health care industry consultant. "The cancellation letters have already gone out. What are these guys supposed to do, go down to the post office and buy a million stamps?"

The insurance industry doesn't like the legislative route either. "We have some significant concerns with how that would work operationally," said Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for the trade group America's Health Insurance Plans.

Behind the political and legal issues, a powerful economic logic is also at work.

Shifting people who already have individual coverage into the new health insurance markets under Obama's law would bring in customers already known to insurers, reducing overall financial risks for the insurance pool.

That's painful for those who end up paying higher premiums for upgraded policies. But it could save money for the taxpayers who are subsidizing the new coverage.

Compared with the uninsured, people with coverage are less likely to have a pent-up need for medical services. At one point, they were all prescreened for health problems.

A sizable share of the uninsured people expected to gain coverage under Obama's law have health problems that have kept them from getting coverage. They'll be the costly cases.

Obama sold the overhaul as a win all around. Uninsured Americans would get coverage and people who liked their insurance could keep it, he said. In hindsight, the president might have wanted to say that you could keep your plan as long as your insurer or your employer did not change it beyond limits prescribed by the government.

Meanwhile, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said late Friday he had issued a subpoena to Todd Park, Obama's top adviser on technology, to appear before his committee next week. The White House has said Park is too busy trying to fix the health care website to appear.

___

Associated Press writers Julie Pace, David Espo and Kevin Vineys contributed to this report.







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serious wrote:
"Pass it and see what it says!!!!" Well they know now.
on November 9,2013 | 04:46AM
palani wrote:
Why would Obama try to "fix" something that he intended all along? Gullible voters and an unquestioning mainstream media refuse to accept the painfully obvious truth of this rigid ideologue's destructive mission.
on November 9,2013 | 05:11AM
gary360 wrote:
They sent my comment for approval.. who approves what they print? So much for "Freedom of Speech".
on November 9,2013 | 05:37AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Gary360, I have had dozens of comments sent for approval, some subsequently appeared, most didn’t. I also have sent dozens of emails to top management at the SA demanding to know why my comments were being sent for approval. Not one of them had the common courtesy to respond or acknowledge receipt. I did speak with the Web Master two or three times regarding specific comments sent for approval. After reviewing them, he was not able to explain why they were sent for approval and he approved them for publication. Comments sent for approval are kept in a hold box of some sort until an SA censor reviews them during normal work hours, Monday to Friday. Comments sent after hours or on weekends and holidays will never see the light of day.
on November 9,2013 | 07:20AM
thepartyfirst wrote:
Some of my comments would not posted. Links to back up my comments would not post. Complained to SA about it to no avail. SA is in the tank for The Left.
on November 9,2013 | 07:44AM
cojef wrote:
Avoid using slang, abusing, sarcastic and swear words. Also do not go against the poltical correctness code. Do not critcize "Shariah Law" or degrade the Muslim religion, it's okay for the other religion. You can rip th America flag and criticize democracy but not Islam. If swear words are use the - and do not spell out the in alphabeth mode completely. Never speak harshly against the the "black activists". Go on and on. Be polite in your criticism. Do not lose your temper... cool cool.
on November 9,2013 | 08:16AM
eoe wrote:
What nobody seems to want to say or understand is these plans are being dropped because they provide substandard coverage, and often coverages from ACA are the same or better, for cheaper. Consider the poster girl - the WSJ ran a story about how this poor cancer survivor was getting the short end of the stick from the ACA. Then someone actually bothered to do the math: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/11/07/2906471/cancer-patient-wall-street-journal-buy-cheaper-obamacare-policy/
on November 9,2013 | 05:57AM
meat wrote:
What do you expect from Thinkprogess and author Igor Volsky? True left wing spin at its best. What a joke.
on November 9,2013 | 06:52AM
mrluke wrote:
"substandard coverage" ! That's BO speak for "We want you to but something more expensive, that you don't need". Just who determines what is substandard for your own needs? Whatever happen to, "If you like your current policy, YOU CAN KEEP IT"?
on November 9,2013 | 07:52AM
mrluke wrote:
"buy"
on November 9,2013 | 07:53AM
eoe wrote:
Except it is in reality less expensive. And covers more. And you can't be denied for pre-existing conditions.
on November 9,2013 | 07:57AM
palani wrote:
Obviously you have not personally compared and priced policies, before and after. I have.
on November 9,2013 | 08:56AM
mrluke wrote:
Seems you failed to address either of the questions I posed. And, if possible, post the evidence for citing "less expensive".
on November 9,2013 | 09:18AM
Nalukai wrote:
Nobody understands ?? I am sure all the 20 million plus honest hard-working taxpayers who had their plans canceled have a little clue.. put down the Obama koolaid and get real ...lol !
on November 9,2013 | 10:12AM
eoe wrote:
And when are the "scandal" stories going to start about the 25 republican states refusing to expand medicaid under the ACA? This purely political move means more than 5 million people will not get medical coverage.
on November 9,2013 | 06:01AM
redneckMT wrote:
eoe, did you drink the Kool-Aid?
on November 9,2013 | 06:53AM
meat wrote:
This whole thing was started and created by BO and his administrative goons with one purpose in mind, to get to SINGLE PAYER. Single Payer is when the gov. runs and controls ALL of the Healthcare services. They set the standards and the cost and they regulate EVERYTHING. If that doesn't send a CHILL up your spine, medical cost under Single payer will.
on November 9,2013 | 07:03AM
loio wrote:
you know Barry is lying when his lips are moving
on November 9,2013 | 07:20AM
DiverDave wrote:
All the twenty somethings that after they pay their rent and lights, and buy Obama gas for 4 bucks a gallon and have a couple hundred left to spend at the end of the month will now have to forgo the movie in order to spend the couple hundred on insurance. Oh, the consequences of electing a socialist.
on November 9,2013 | 07:20AM
jussayin wrote:
"If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan." What the President said many times as he pushed for approval of the ACA. So much for that. Fortunately I'm allowed to keep my insurance, however, my out of pocket went up four times than pre-Obamacare/ACA. Another hit on many of those in the middle income.
on November 9,2013 | 07:43AM
Ronin006 wrote:
The story says it will be painful people shifting into the new health care insurance markets who end up paying higher premiums for upgraded policies (for services they do not need or want), but “it could save money for the taxpayers who are subsidizing the new coverage.” Question: Aren’t the people paying higher premiums taxpayers also the people who will be subsidizing the new coverage? They will be hit twice.
on November 9,2013 | 08:02AM
cojef wrote:
Simply, you are paying for the 30 millions who formerly did not have coverage. The 30 millions health insurance premiums are now being paid by you who had covered insurance. Now your policy is cancelled because the coverage you had was "sub-standard", according to the President. He made the decision that it was sub-standard notwithstanding that you liked it and could afford it. Now, you must use the exchange and find a policy, not like you had but a policy that based on "one size fits all" at a higher cost. There is currently 15 millions whose policy has been cancelled and the number is growing. By the time January rolls along, you will have over 30 millions whose policies have been cancelled. The irony, you were happy with then existing policy and coverage you had, but now you belong to the group that is uninsured and looking for a policy or pay the fine and unisnsured. The Government has taken over the insurance business, a 1/6 of the US business and have a monopoly of no choice, Pay a fine or pay the higher premium for coverage you may not need. You have no choice, the Government made the decision. If you voted for Obama that what you voted for. Decieved???
on November 9,2013 | 08:35AM
meat wrote:
Tru dat. 30M gets coverage, while millions more LOSE coverage. Guess it makes sense to the Democrats.
on November 9,2013 | 09:09AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Poorly thought out and worse reaction. Take it back and fix it. Start again when it's really ready.
on November 9,2013 | 09:28AM
WhyBother wrote:
The President is either completely ignorant of how health insurance works OR just wanted to control all health care decisions. Why he thought he knew better than American citizens on what their insurance needed to include is amazingly arrogant. I agree the uninsured needed help and that would costs money to provide, but ruining existing health insurance policies along the way is nonsense.
on November 9,2013 | 11:04AM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
It's Medicare and Medicaid that need to be reformed, not the private insurance market. The federal government spent 1.1 trillion on these 2 items alone in 2011. Just about exactly the size of the federal deficit that year. Those on Medicare or Medicaid should be required to be in a managed healthcare delivery system such as Kaiser to control costs and prevent the fraud that seems to permeate the current system. If they want a PPO plan, they can buy it themselves in the private marketplace or pay their own doctors directly for services if they can afford it. Both political parties know a solution like this is needed but neither has the *balls* to stand up to the 50 million Medicare/Medicaid beneficiaries it would affect for fear of getting voted out of office. Instead, they just kick can down the road and run the country further into debt. Eventually, the current system will collapse and retirees and poor folks will have no coverage at all.
on November 9,2013 | 11:09AM
calentura wrote:
The first sentence of this article shows that this man is lying again. He won't do "anything" to fix the problem. The ACA needs to be repealed, and he won't do that. He won't even support legislation to let people keep the policies that were cancelled. It's one lie after another, and then lies about his own lying. His favorite coverup is saying "We have to work hard to fix the problem." Well, he IS the problem.
on November 9,2013 | 11:49AM
DAGR81 wrote:
As he has shown throughout his presidency "all he can do" is not much.
on November 9,2013 | 11:54AM
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