Insurers Asked To Help With Messaging Over Policy Cancellations
On Tuesday, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough met with a group of insurance executives to discuss ways insurers can help appease the growing number of U.S. residents whose coverage is being canceled, Reuters reports (Morgan/Rampton, Reuters, 11/5).
Last week, NBC News reported that millions of consumers nationwide with individual health plans have received letters notifying them that their current policies will be canceled because they do not meet the minimum coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act.
NBC News reported that up to 75% of the nearly 14 million people on the individual market could expect to receive similar notices over the next year and that many of the consumers might be required to buy more costly coverage.
Critics of the ACA said the report is evidence that the law is flawed and that President Obama and his administration have misled consumers with the oft-repeated promise that they will be able to continue with their existing health plans if they like them (California Healthline, 11/4).
During the meeting at the White House, McDonough asked a group of insurance executives to help consumers who received the cancellation notices to understand their options under the ACA, including that they might be eligible for subsidies to help lower their costs (Sink, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/5).
White House press secretary Jay Carney said that McDonough emphasized that all stakeholders involved in the exchanges are responsible for ensuring that consumers who cannot continue with their current policy are fully informed of their options (Felsenthal, Reuters, 11/5). In order to accomplish this, McDonough urged insurers to "ramp up communication and education efforts" with such individuals (Lederman, AP/Sacramento Bee, 11/5).
Obama Seeks To Clarify Former Comments
Meanwhile, Obama on Monday sought to clarify his pledge that U.S. residents who like their health coverage can keep it during a speech at Organizing for Action, an advocacy group supporting the law's implementation, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Obama said, "If you have or had one of these plans before the [ACA] came into law and you really like that plan, what we said was you could keep it if it hasn't changed since the law was passed" (McCain Nelson/Nicholas, Wall Street Journal, 11/5).
GOP Lawmakers Continue Attacks
Obama's speech triggered a new wave of criticism on Tuesday, with House Republicans saying the president "knowingly misled" the public, The Hill's "Floor Action" reports.
In a tweet, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) denounced Obama's explanation, writing, "'If it hasn't changed since the law was passed?' That is not what you told the American people, Mr. President."
Meanwhile, Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday released a statement that accused Obama of "dishonesty." She said, "For years the president has made a consistent and simple promise to the American public: That under Obamacare, 'if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.'" She added, "Last night, President Obama added insult to injury to the millions of Americans losing their health insurance by brazenly telling them that he had not in fact made this promise." Black called Obama's statements "factually incorrect and intellectually insulting" (Kasperowicz, "Floor Action," The Hill, 11/5).
Those sentiments were echoed on Tuesday on the Senate floor by Sens. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) and John Thune (R-S.D.). Thune said, "As the leader of our country, the president's words matter." He added, "The promise that you can keep your plan if you like it, the promise you can keep your doctor is a broken promise."
Coats estimated that at least 3.5 million U.S. residents have been told their plans will be canceled because they do not meet minimum standards under the ACA. He said, "The truth is you can only keep your health care plan if this administration likes it" (Cox, "Floor Action," The Hill, 11/5).
Even some supporters of the ACA have said Obama was mistaken in attempting to clarify his promise. Chris Kofinis, a Democratic strategist and former chief of staff to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), said Obama "has to come out and say it was a mistake for me to have said it this way." He added, "If you keep trying to rationalize it, or explain it, or justify it when it's clear what you said, all you do is keep digging a bigger hole" (Wall Street Journal, 11/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.