President looks for ways to ease health insurance cancellations under Obamacare

Updated: 2013-11-13T04:50:08Z

Star news services

Under bipartisan pressure to answer consumer complaints, administration officials said Tuesday that President Barack Obama wants his staff to find ways of ensuring that new insurance plans required by his health care law are more affordable for people who have been forced off older policies with less comprehensive coverage.

White House officials also said the president was likely to oppose emerging lagislation that would let people keep their current insurance plans that don’t meet minimum standards.

Former President Bill Clinton, who has helped promote the 3-year-old law, added to the pressure on the administration by saying the president should find a way to let people keep their health coverage, even if it means changing the law.

Clinton says Obama should “honor the commitment that the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.”

The White House said it is working on changes that would ease the effect of cancellations for some people. But the fixes are administrative actions, not changes to the law.

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday reiterated that the cancellations apply to only about 5 percent of Americans, who buy individual policies.

He also argued that more than half of those people receiving termination notices would benefit from better insurance at lower prices either through expanded Medicaid or through new health care marketplaces.

For the rest, Carney said, “The president has instructed his team to look at a range of options.”

Clinton, whose eight-year administration failed to produce substantive health care legislation, became the latest in Obama’s party to urge the president to live up to a promise he made, declaring that if Americans liked their health care coverage, they would be able to keep it under the new law.

The president failed to acknowledge that that would not be true for bare-bones policies that offered little coverage and failed to meet minimum standards under the law.

House Republicans have drafted legislation to give consumers the opportunity to keep their coverage. Ten Senate Democrats are pushing for an unspecified extension of the sign-up period. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, has proposed legislation that would require insurance companies to reinstate the canceled policies.

Carney said the White House opposes a House Republican bill, proposed by Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, that would let insurers keep selling policies that don’t offer the type of benefits required by the new law.

“Any fix that would essentially open up for insurers the ability to sell new plans that do not meet standards would create more problems than it fixed,” he said.

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