KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Offers Fix For Insurance Plan Cancellations

President Barack Obama offered the outlines of an administrative fix to the problem some consumers are facing -- health coverage cancellation notices.

Watch Kaiser Health News' clip or the President's remarks or read the transcript.

The Washington Post: Obama Announces Change To Address Health Insurance Cancellations
President Obama announced Thursday an administrative change in one of the bedrock ideas of the new health-care law, allowing people with individual insurance policies to keep them for another year even if they do not comply with the law’s rules for minimum benefits. “This fix won’t solve every problem for every person, but it’s going to help a lot of people,” Obama said in making the announcement. He said that “doing more” would require congressional action (Goldstein, Eilperin and Branigan, 11/14).

The New York Times: A Contrite Obama Unveils A Health Fix
The president’s plan would apply only to people who have had their existing policies canceled. Those currently without insurance would not be able to buy the old plans. Despite the president’s reversal, Speaker John A. Boehner said that he intended to push ahead with a House vote Friday on a measure that would allow consumers to keep their canceled plans without penalty and allow others to sign up for them. Mr. Boehner said that he was skeptical of the president’s plan, and that the new law needed to be overturned (Parker, Shear and Pear, 11/14).  

The Wall Street Journal: White House To Allow Insurers To Continue Canceled Health Plans
Under the Obama plan, insurers are required to notify consumers whether their renewed plans don't include coverage that was required under the new health law, which set minimum coverage standards. They must tell consumers that new insurance options and possibly tax subsidies may be available for policies bought through online federal marketplace. Insurers won't be able to sell so-called substandard plans to new consumers, only to those who already were enrolled in plans that don't meet the law's coverage requirements. That is a difference from the bill proposed by Rep. Fred Upton (R., Mich.), the one due for a House vote Friday, which would allow insurers to sell those plans to new consumers (Lee and Radnofsky, 11/14).

Los Angeles Times: Obama: 'We Fumbled The Rollout On This Healthcare Law'
White House officials said Thursday that new plans sold next year would still have to offer the new benefits, which include hospitalizations, mental health services and maternity coverage. But the officials said insurers would be free to offer their customers the option to remain on their current plans rather than switching to the new plans, which in some cases are more expensive. If insurers offer this option, however, they would be required to notify consumers which benefits their current plans are missing. Insurers would also have to alert their customers that other options might be avaliable on the new marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act. It is unclear how many insurers would opt to extend current plans. Industry officials have said that doing that would be burdensome (Levey and Lauter, 11/14).

Politico: Obamacare Fix: Keep Plans
 The president sought to do damage control in responding to problems with — and the low level of October insurance signups — and offered a proposal aimed at making it easier for Americans whose health insurance plans were slated to be cancelled at the end of the year to keep the same coverage through 2014. Obama’s fix is an attempt to head off a mounting push from moderate and red state Democrats who are threatening to attempt an end-around the White House on health care. It’s also a response to the reaction to his repeated claims that people would be allowed to keep their current health care plans (Allen and Epstein, 11/14).

Reuters: Bowing To Political Pressure, Obama Unveils Fix On Healthcare
President Barack Obama bowed to political pressure over his signature healthcare reform on Thursday, announcing that he would allow insurers to extend policies that have been canceled for one year even if they do not comply with the law. But insurers immediately raised doubts over how the proposal would work. ... Two insurance groups questioned Obama's proposed solution. "Changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers," said Karen Ignani, president and chief executive officer of America's Health Insurance Plans, the lobbying arm of the insurance industry. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners said in a statement that it was unclear how Obama's proposal on canceled policies can be put into effect (Holland and Cornwell, 11/14).  

USA Today: Obama: Canceled Plans Can Be Kept For A Year
President Obama said Thursday that Americans can keep canceled health insurance policies for a year as companies and consumers adjust to the new demands of the health care law. ... In the coming weeks, insurance companies must also notify customers of what those policies lack, and of options consumers have for better coverage under the new law, Obama said. He said, "this fix won't solve every problem, but it will help a lot of people" (Jackson, 11/14).  

Fox News: ObamaCare ‘Fix’ Shifts Responsibility To Insurers
Under the president’s fix, insurance companies are now charged with undertaking the administrative work of contacting previous policyholders to explain their new options. The president’s solution does not require legislation, and state insurance commissioners and insurance companies will have to decide whether or not to permit policy renewals. The move does not allow insurers to sell non-compliant plans. ... Insurance companies that renew non-compliant plans will be required have to explain to policyholders what is and isn’t covered by their plan, and the new offerings available on both state and federally-run exchanges. ... Morningstar insurance analyst Vishnu Lekraj says the administrative burden will likely impact smaller insurers, as individual plans are often offered by smaller insurance providers. ... The move, administrative tasks aside, means exchanges will be “small potatoes” for at least 2014, when it comes to insurers’ profits, [Susan] Dentzer says, [senior advisor to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation].

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