Report: White House Knew Millions Would Lose Existing Policies
Despite repeated assurances that U.S. residents who like their health insurance plans would be able to keep them under the Affordable Care Act, millions of consumers nationwide are receiving letters from their insurers -- or are expected to receive them in the coming weeks -- informing them that their coverage soon will be cancelled, NBC News reports.
According to NBC News, four sources who helped develop the ACA said that between 50% to 75% of the estimated 14 million people who purchase individual coverage could expect to receive "cancellation" notices or similar letters over the next year because their current policies do not meet the minimum coverage requirements. At least one expert -- Robert Laszewski, a consultant at Health Policy and Strategy Associates -- estimates that figure could reach 80%. According to NBC News, all the sources agreed that many of the consumers would be required to buy more costly coverage and could experience "sticker shock."
Under the ACA, insurance policies that were in effect as of March 23, 2010 -- when the law was enacted -- will be "grandfathered" even if they do not meet the new coverage requirements. HHS later issued regulations clarifying that if any of those plans were changed significantly after that date, they would lose their grandfathered status.
According to NBC News, language in ACA regulations dated July 2010 estimates that "40 to 67%" of consumers will lose their health policies, indicating that the Obama administration knew that millions of people would lose their coverage. In 2012, President Obama said, "If [you] already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance." He offered a similar pledge in 2009, saying, "[I]f you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan" (Myers/Rappleye, NBC News, 10/28).
White House Officials Defend Law
White House officials on Monday did not dispute NBC News' report, but they argued that the issue it highlights is not an effect of the ACA and is not a new development, Politico reports (Haberkorn , Politico, 10/28).
In a tweet, White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest dismissed the report, describing the "scoop" as "not new" and that it is a "problem the ACA will solve" (Sink/Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/28).
During his daily press briefing, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the claim that some people would lose their "substandard plans" is "true" and it is "correct that substandard plans ... are no longer allowed because the [ACA] is built on the premise that health care is not a privilege, it's a right and there should be minimum standards for the plans available to Americans across the country" (Eilperin, "Post Politics," Washington Post, 10/28).
White House spokesperson Jessica Santillo in an email noted that "in the vast majority of cases" of people who lose their coverage, "those same insurers will automatically shift their enrollees to a plan that provides new consumer protections and, for nearly half of individual market enrollees, discounts through premium tax credits." She added, "Nothing in the [ACA] forces people out of their health plans: The law allows plans that covered people at the time the law was enacted to continue to offer that same coverage to the same enrollees -- nothing has changed and that coverage can continue into 2014" (NBC News, 10/28).
GOP Flaunt NBC Report
Meanwhile, some Republican lawmakers cited the NBC News report as evidence that Obama has mislead U.S. residents about how the ACA will affect their existing policies, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in a statement said, "One of the most important promises made by President Obama … was that Americans who were satisfied with their health plans could keep them." He added, "That promise has been broken" ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/28).
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the report highlights "more broken promises from the administration." He added, "For months, the American people have been learning about the impact Obamacare will have on individuals and families in the form of higher premiums, canceled insurance plans and lost jobs."
Citing the troubled rollout of the federal health insurance exchange website, McConnell said the ACA's "problems run much deeper than the failed website, and it's time for the president to keep his word" (Boyer, Washington Times, 10/28).
Bill Would Allow Americans To Keep Policies
In related news, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.) on Monday introduced legislation that would expand the ACA's grandfathered plan requirements, allowing more U.S. residents to keep their existing policies, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/28).
In a statement, Upton said, "This legislation is about providing folks the peace of mind that they will be allowed to keep their current coverage if they so choose" ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/28). However, the bill would be contingent on insurers agreeing to offer those policies, which they have been preparing to eliminate to comply with the law.
According to Politico, the measure is expected to face opposition in the Democrat-controlled Senate (Politico, 10/28).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.