Health law will be fixed, president says
President Barack Obama said Thursday he would administratively repair his signature health-insurance law, prompting an ally, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., to insist on a legislative fix.
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., meanwhile, said Obama’s proposal would amount to giving “an aspirin for a brain tumor.”
Obama said in a press conference at the White House that he would give insurers the option to offer plans that would otherwise expire Dec. 31.
As of Jan. 1, all Americans are required to obtain health insurance or pay a fine.
Under the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, insurers had to offer plans meeting requirements established in the law.
Administration officials, meanwhile, said the presidential prescription could be extended if problems with the law continue.
Udall is among 12 Democratic senators facing re-election battles next year who met this week with Obama to urge him to resolve issues surrounding the cancellations of coverage to millions of Americans whose plans would fall short of those requirements as of 2014.
Obama “took a step in the right direction today,” Udall said after the president’s news conference. “I think we need to go further. My legislation would require insurers to keep offering existing health-insurance plans. The president would allow insurers to do so.”
Udall this week introduced the Continuous Coverage Act, which would ensure that consumers could keep their current coverage through December 31, 2015. It also would give extra time for people to enroll for insurance coverage.
The House today is scheduled to vote on a plan by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., to allow Americans to keep their current plans.
The Upton measure is a start, Tipton said, “but it doesn’t address the inherent problems with the law.”
Among the problems that have cropped up with the Affordable Care Act are premiums that cost more in rural areas than in cities and “dismal enrollment numbers falling far short of the administration’s goals.”
The health care law was pitched as a way to insure some 50 million uninsured Americans. The first month saw some 27,000 people enroll using online exchanges, the federal government said.
“This changes things,” said Steve ErkenBrack of Grand Junction-based Rocky Mountain Health Plans, noting that the extent of the change could be tempered by the Colorado Department of Insurance.
Insurers have been working since the law was adopted to meet the requirements that become effective on Jan. 1.
“The challenge, of course, is that in building products for market, we price them many months ahead of time. Obviously we want to do the best thing for our customers.”
Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar said her agency would work closely with insurance carriers on changes that need to be made, as well as alert consumers of changes.
In Colorado, insurance officials had no immediate comment on actions the Division of Insurance might take in light of the president’s announcement.
In the state of Washington, however, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler rejected Obama’s proposal to allow insurance companies to extend health insurance policies for people who have received notices that their policies will be canceled at the end of the year.
“I do not believe his proposal is a good deal for the state of Washington,” Kreidler said. “We will not be allowing insurance companies to extend their policies.”