White House Mulls Fix for Canceled Coverage Under ACA
The Obama administration is working to address the issue of health plan cancellations, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Sacramento Bee, 11/10).
Background on Policy Cancellations
In recent weeks, millions of consumers have been notified by their insurers that their current insurance policies will be discontinued because they do not meet minimum coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act.
During an interview with NBC News Thursday, President Obama apologized to those consumers who have been receiving the letters. He acknowledged that he did not do enough to protect those people from having their policies canceled, despite the repeated "assurances they got from me" that people would be able to retain their current policies if they liked them (Shear, New York Times, 11/7).
He added that his administration now has "got to work hard to make sure [consumers] know we hear them and we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this" (Todd, NBC News, 11/7).
Obama also said the White House is looking at a "range of options" to avoid the "sticker shock" that some consumers might have to endure.
The Huffington Post reported Friday that the most likely approach the administration is considering is "an administrative fix for the population of people in the individual market who may have an increase in premiums, but don't get subsidies" (Stein, Huffington Post, 11/8).
Experts, Officials Speak Out
According to the AP/Bee, the administration is expected to focus heavily on a solution for individuals whose policies have been canceled and do not qualify for subsidies (AP/Sacramento Bee, 11/10). However, policy experts note that reinstating any canceled health plans could be difficult because state commissioners already have approved plans that will be offered next year.
Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesperson for America's Health Insurance Plans, said, "We have some significant concerns with how these proposals would work operationally," adding, "It raises a number of questions."
Further, if the administration does offer a solution allowing consumers to stay on their current plans, enrollment in the ACA's insurance exchanges could be negatively affected, according to the Los Angeles Times. Many individuals who are looking to keep their current low-premium plans are in good in health and rarely use the health care system.
However, enrolling enough of such individuals in the exchanges is a key aspect to the overall success of the ACA, because they would help offset the cost of older, sicker individuals in the marketplaces, the Times reports. Gary Claxton, a vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said, "If those people don't come into the pool next year, then the premiums the insurers bid for the 2014 policies might be wrong."
Meanwhile, administration officials have noted that once HealthCare.gov -- the federal health insurance exchange website -- is up and working properly and most consumers are able to see their coverage options, they will be able to find comparable policies to their canceled plans (Hennessey/Parsons, Los Angeles Times, 11/8).
Congress To Vote on Solution This Week
On Friday, The House is expected to vote on a bill (HR 3350) -- by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.) -- that would allow U.S. residents to keep their existing health plans, even if the plans do not meet the ACA's minimum coverage requirements (Ethridge/Attias, CQ Roll Call, 11/8).
A similar bill (S 1642) has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), which would allow consumers to keep their plans and require insurers to tell their customers which provisions of their policies do not meet the minimum coverage standards. Three other Senate Democrats have signed on to the measure. Meanwhile, another Senate bill (S 1617), introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), has secured the support of 42 Republican senators.
White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said Obama is "open to working with members of Congress that have a genuine interest in trying to strengthen" the ACA, but Earnest did not say whether the president supports any of the three proposals (Schoof, Sacramento Bee, 11/8).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.