In the wake of widespread criticism, President Obama announced a change to a key regulation relating to individual insurance policies in the Affordable Care Act.
Speaking at a news conference Thursday, Nov. 14, at the White House, Obama said insurers in 2014 could continue to offer individual insurance policies that do not meet the standards of the insurance plans in the ACA exchanges.
As written, the ACA barred the sale of such plans. The result was that up to several million people were slated to receive cancellation notices from their insurers, contradicting Obamas previous pledge that anyone who wanted to keep their plan could do so under the ACA.
Now, Obama said, insurers can continue to offer such plans to current enrollees.
State insurance commissioners still have the power to decide what plans can and cant be sold in their states, Obama said at the news conference. But the bottom line is, insurers can extend current plans that would otherwise be canceled into 2014, and Americans whose plans have been canceled can choose to re-enroll in the same kind of plan.
Were also requiring insurers [who intend] to extend current plans to inform their customers about two things. One, what protections these renewed plans dont include. And number two, that the marketplace offers new options with better coverage and tax credits that might help you bring down the cost.
So if youve received one of these letters, Id encourage you to take a look at the marketplace. Even if the website isnt working as smoothly as it should be for everybody yet, the plan comparison tool that lets you browse costs for new plans near you is working just fine.
Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of Americas Health Insurance Plans, a trade group, expressed concern over what the move could do to premiums in the ACA insurance exchanges.
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, Ignagni said in a news release. Premiums have already been set for next year based on an assumption of when consumers will be transitioning to the new marketplace.
If due to these changes fewer younger and healthier people choose to purchase coverage in the exchange, premiums will increase in the marketplace and there will be fewer choices for consumers. Additional steps must be taken to stabilize the marketplace and mitigate the adverse impact on consumers.
Later in the news conference, Obama backed up claims by members of his administration that the federally-run insurance exchange will be working for the most users by the end of this month.
Since its Oct. 1 launch, the exchange for people seeking insurance in 36 states mostly has been dysfunctional. Exchanges have performed better in 14 states that chose to run their own have performed better.
The poor performance of the site compounds the problem of the insurance cancellation notices because people with canceled policies have had a hard time exploring replacement options.
In terms of what happens on Nov. 30 or Dec. 1, I think its fair to say that the improvement will be marked and noticeable, Obama said. The website will work much better on Nov. 30, Dec. 1, than it worked certainly on Oct. 1. Thats a pretty low bar. It will be working better than it was this week, which means that the majority of people who go to the website will see a website that is working the way its supposed to.
I think it is not possible for me to guarantee that 100% of the people 100% of the time going on this website will have a perfectly seamless, smooth experience. Were going to have to continue to improve it even after Nov. 30, Dec. 1. But the majority of people who use it will be able to see it operate the way it was supposed to.