President Barack Obama has announced a nonlegislative fix aimed at solving the problem of millions of Americans being sent health plan cancellation notices.
The notices have gone crashing into the president's previous assurances to Americans that, "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan."
So, can you keep your plan? Maybe
Under his new proposal, insurers will be allowed to give policyholders the option of renewing their current health plans for 2014, even if they do not meet Obamacare's higher standards. But there are a few stipulations.
Before consumers can stick with one of these old plans that fall short, insurers must let them know about:
- Any changes in available options.
- Benefits that would not be included in their coverage.
- Their right to enroll in one of the plans available in the Obamacare exchanges, where subsidies can reduce premiums.
- How to access coverage through the exchanges.
- Their right to enroll in a qualifying health plan outside the exchanges.
The president's remedy is similar to the "grandfathering" in the 2010 law, which made existing plans exempt from several of the required changes of the Affordable Care Act. During his announcement, Obama called the grandfather clause "insufficient" because it did not reach those Americans who are now facing cancellations.
When asked on a conference call how the proposed change makes any difference, since insurers were supposedly able to renew the old plans all along, senior White House officials said that assumption is not necessarily true and that without this fix, insurers would not be able to renew noncomplying health plans.
Insurers are wary
America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade association for the health insurance industry, is voicing unease with the president's fix.
"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," says AHIP's president and CEO Karen Ignagni, in a statement.
During a news conference, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said the only way to resolve the problems would be to "scrap this law once and for all."
Members of Congress have drafted several bills that would go further than the president's fix, including a Republican measure that would allow insurance companies to sell new plans that fall shy of Obamacare's requirements.
Meanwhile, the president admitted that his promise to Americans that they could keep their health plans "ended up not being accurate" and that the administration "fumbled the rollout on this health care law."
Follow me on Twitter @CrissiPonder.