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Obama offering a fix to those losing current insurance

By David Espo

AP Special Correspondent

LAST UPDATED: 07:55 a.m. HST, Nov 14, 2013

WASHINGTON >> Bowing to pressure, President Barack Obama announced changes to his health care law to give insurance companies the option to keep offering consumers plans that would otherwise be canceled.

The administrative changes are good for just one year, though senior administration officials said they could be extended if problems with the law persist. Obama announced the changes at the White House today.

"This fix won't solve every problem for every person, but it's going to help a lot of people," the president said.

He acknowledged that "we fumbled the rollout of this health care law" and pledged to "just keep on chipping away at this until the job is done."

Obama has been under enormous pressure from congressional Democrats to give ground on the cancellation issue under the health care overhaul, a program likely to be at the center of next year's midterm elections for control of the House and Senate.

It's unclear what the impact of Thursday's changes will be for the millions of people who have already had their plans canceled. While officials said insurance companies will now be able to offer those people the option to renew their old plans, companies are not required to take that step.

Insurance companies will be required to inform consumers who want to keep canceled plans about the protections that are not included under those plans. Customers will also be notified that new options are available offering more coverage and in some cases, tax credits to cover higher premiums.

Under Obama's plan, insurance companies would not be allowed to sell coverage deemed subpar under the law to new customers, marking a difference with legislation that House Republicans intend to put to a vote on Friday.

Only last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a Senate panel she doubted that retroactively permitting insurers to sell canceled policies "can work very well since companies are now in the market with an array of new plans. Many have actually added consumer protections in the last three-and-a-half years."

Republicans were unimpressed with the changes.

House Speaker John Boehner, speaking in advance of the president's announcement, insisted it was time to "scrap this law once and for all."

"You can't fix this government-run health care plan called Obamacare ," he said. "It's just not fixable."

Obama, for his part, made clear he would continue to fight ongoing attempts to sink the whole program, saying, "I will not accept proposals that are just a brazen attempt to undermine or repeal" the entire law.

"We're going to solve the problems that are there, we're going to get it right, and the Affordable Care Act is going to work for the American people," he pledged.

While the White House deals with the cancellation issue, the administration is also promising improvements in a federal website so balky that enrollments totaled fewer than 27,000 in October in 36 states combined. The administration had said in advance the enrollment numbers would fall far short of initial expectations. After weeks of highly publicized technical woes, they did.

Adding in enrollment of more than 79,000 in the 14 states with their own websites, the nationwide number of 106,000 October sign-ups was barely one-fifth of what officials had projected -- and a small fraction of the millions who have received private coverage cancellations as a result of the federal law.

The administration said an additional 1 million people have been found eligible to buy coverage in the markets, with about one-third qualifying for tax credits to reduce their premiums. Another 396,000 have been found eligible for Medicaid, which covers low-income people.

Administration officials and senior congressional Democrats expressed confidence in the program's future. "We expect enrollment will grow substantially throughout the next five months," said Sebelius, who is in charge of the program.

"Even with the issues we've had, the marketplace is working and people are enrolling," she added.

Despite the expressions, the White House worked to reassure anxious Democrats who are worried about the controversial program, which they voted into existence three years ago over Republican opposition as strong now as it was then.

Senate Democrats arranged a closed-door meeting for midday Thursday in the Capitol with White House officials, who held a similar session Wednesday with the House rank and file. Ahead of that meeting, Obama planned to speak from the White House about new efforts to help Americans receiving insurance cancellation notices.

So far, five Senate Democrats are on record in support of legislation by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., to make sure everyone can keep their present coverage if they want to. The bill would require insurance companies to continue offering existing policies, even if they fall short of minimum coverage requirements in the law.

The measure has little apparent chance at passage, given that it imposes a new mandate on the insurance industry that Republicans will be reluctant to accept.

At the same time, a vote would at least permit Democrats to say they have voted to repair some of the problems associated with the Affordable Care Act, as many appear eager to do.

In a statement, Landrieu said Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Pryor of Arkansas were now supporting the legislation, as is Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. All but Feinstein are on the ballot next year.

Across the Capitol, majority Republicans in the House set a vote for Friday on legislation to permit insurance companies to continue selling existing policies that have been ordered scrapped because they fall short of coverage standards in the law.

While House passage of the measure is assured, each Democrat will be forced to cast a vote on the future of a program that Republicans have vowed to place at the center of next year's campaign.

Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, who voted for the initial Obama health care bill, said Thursday that members of his caucus want an opportunity to go on the record in support of allowing people to keep the insurance they had.

Doyle told MSNBC in an interview that at a White House meeting Wednesday, House Democrats told Obama about "the frustration level that many of us have" with the health care roll-out.

Doyle said Democrats warned Obama that "if you don't give us something by Friday" to fix the insurance cancellation problem, then many Democrats are likely to vote for the pending House bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, which would accomplish that goal.

The promise of keeping coverage was Obama's oft-stated pledge when the legislation was under consideration, a calling card since shredded by the millions of cancellations mailed out by insurers.

Obama apologized last week for the broken promise, but aides said at the time the White House was only considering administration changes, rather than new legislation.


Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Julie Pace contributed to this report.

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realist3463 wrote:
For one year only.
on November 14,2013 | 06:53AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Yes, one year, to take the heat off Democrats until after the 2014 elections. It then will be back to where we are now.
on November 14,2013 | 12:32PM
thepartyfirst wrote:
He is going to change the "law?" Is he going through Congress or just change it?
on November 14,2013 | 04:53PM
WhyBother wrote:
President Obama and the administration rushed through a plan (and legislation) for affordable health care that just doesn't add up. This was a prime example of the "we will fix the bad legislation later after we pass it" approach you hear from legislators in D.C. and in Hawaii (Dems in this particular case). The moral of that story is buying a broken bike with the "intention" of fixing it later when you are riding on it, is bad policy and not smart, particularly when you don't know how to ride a bike to being with (lack a clear understanding of how adverse selection ruins insurance pools).
on November 14,2013 | 07:11AM
Anonymous wrote:
How very special, this one year extension for individuals to continue to purchase their "substandard" insurance policies (substandard because the president says so). --------------------- This bold move, this model of modern leadership, is clearly aimed at calming the chaos created in American health care (until after the 2014 election) because it's the big picture that counts, you see, not your puny little middle class concerns about whether or not you can afford the new and improved Obamacare mandated insurance AND keep paying your mortgage. ------- But what about 2015 when this "extension" for individuals AND the delayed business mandate come into being AT THE SAME TIME?-------- Calm down, calm down, now. Don't you worry your pretty little worker drone head about the way,way out future. Just let Mr. President Hope and Change take care of that for you. After all, he organized a community something or other once, I'm told.
on November 14,2013 | 07:23AM
TLehel wrote:
Couldn't agree more. We should start making T-Shirts with things Obama says. Example- Obama Says "If you like your current healthcsre plan, you can keep it". Then on the back it will say, "I didn't say that". Or we could have one that says "Drink your flouride water!" (he doesn't say that, but you know he's thinking it). Or how about, "The Affordable Care Act will make insurance affordable for all Americans". Then on the back, "JK now we're gonna double and triple your premiums! HAHAHAHA".
on November 14,2013 | 09:04AM
Pacej001 wrote:
If you like your insurance, doctor, hospital, and your current cancer/(insert your illness here) treatment, you can keep it----------- until next year, until after the election because, you see, what's important (stay with me now) is that the democrats, the political geniuses that put Obamacare together, be reelected so that the country can continue to benefit from their, uh, genius.
on November 14,2013 | 07:36AM
Maipono wrote:
The president follows a fumble with another fumble, and with two big turnovers the game will be hard to win, this is what happens when we place the wrong guy in control of the team. We chose a president who had no previous knowledge or experience in a leadership position and elected him twice, now we have to pay for that poor choice. The reason this will not work are the logistics of reinstating plans that have already been cancelled, there are costs that are involved with "turning the ship around", and those costs will be passed on to you, the customer. So please Hawaii, think about it when you go back in the voting booth and voting all Democrat Party all the time, this is what got us in this mess. If you like this mess, you can keep this mess, period.
on November 14,2013 | 07:39AM
palani wrote:
LOL. A "fix" good until after next year's elections. I guess the insurance companies can just mail out notices to the 5 million and counting currently cancelled saying "never mind".

Never Mind!

on November 14,2013 | 07:58AM
inverse wrote:
on November 14,2013 | 09:24AM
Pacej001 wrote:
Hilarious. THX.
on November 14,2013 | 10:01AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Good job Mr.President! Like any major project it needs tweaking. Adjustments will make this a very workable thing. The total effort to stop ACA from the beginning was wasted effort. The GOP is negative base ,do nothing, stop everything ,against everything, doomsday enterprise. If Mitch the b*tch didn't say "We will stop everything this president brings forth", I maybe would believe them, but alas he was true to his word.
on November 14,2013 | 08:08AM
aomohoa wrote:
What are you smokin! You are blinded by his charisma.
on November 14,2013 | 08:53AM
Pacej001 wrote:
Funny The Obamacare bug just found the windshield of reality. All the" teaks" in the world aren't going to put it back together, especially this truly hilarious idea of Obama's to delay the thing until after the next election.
on November 14,2013 | 09:07AM
thepartyfirst wrote:
Nixon resigned on a lesser lie. Obama would not resign for he has no word to be true to, just more lies.
on November 14,2013 | 09:43PM
aomohoa wrote:
And this is a surprise to anyone? LOL
on November 14,2013 | 08:49AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Check this morning,yep, Obama is still POTUS. Will continue on. Those people who got medical insurance with minimum coverage, as in We don't cover,aciidents,broken bones,surgery,emergency rooms,hospital rooms,existing conditions etc.etc.then expect coverage after a catastrophic incident, well yeah they need to pay a little more. But really, who are these people, serious,pace,aomohoa,palani,anon.,Maipono? No, those are GOP wannabes regurgitating vomit. You see GOP don't give a dam about sick people. If not, you would have seen President Cheney put effort in it , instead of spending trillions of dollars on two wars, which we are still paying in Healthcare cost, and let that war tax money trickle down to his former company, Halliburton. All they had to do was wipe the blood and guts off the dollar bills and stuff their wallets.
on November 14,2013 | 10:08AM
TLehel wrote:
If they're regurgitating vomit then you're spewing sewage. Seriously dude you're trying to argue about two evils. Giving Cheney as an example is a joke because we know he's been one of the bad guys just as Obama and his subordinates ARE. The people who are trying to fight to stop ACA are the ones who actually care about what becomes of this country. Cause this bill will enslave and destroy us. People like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are representatives that actually still fight for liberty and freedom. There are corrupt people in every party. You just need to realize which ones are actually trying to do things for good.
on November 14,2013 | 12:27PM
aomohoa wrote:
NanakuliBoss has tunnel vision. LOL I don't take anything he says seriously. He doesn't want to know the truth about how inefficient and costly and a failure Obamacare will be.
on November 14,2013 | 06:59PM
thepartyfirst wrote:
Just where do you get your info from?
on November 14,2013 | 09:46PM
kuroiwaj wrote:
What, you call me stupid! You lie. Come on man, be straight with Americans.
on November 14,2013 | 09:58AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Kuro, you paying more now? I thought Medicare no touch?
on November 14,2013 | 10:10AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Fraud is a crime. I have no doubts the President committed fraud against Americans with his repeated lies to get Obamacare passed. I now am waiting to hear when the impeachment hearings will begin.
on November 14,2013 | 12:36PM
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