President Barack Obama later today will meet with chief executives from across the health-insurance industry, according to a White House official, a day after he said he wanted insurers to allow people to keep their current health plans even if they didn’t meet new standards.
On Thursday, Mr. Obama said he would allow insurers to re-enroll consumers in health plans, but not sell the plans to new customers. The president acted to quell an uproar among nervous Democrats flocking to a Republican bill that would allow insurers to re-enroll consumers in health plans and also sell the plans to new customers.
Insurers and the administration have been discussing the prospect of insurers getting the go-ahead and necessary data to directly enroll people who would qualify for subsidies under the law in recent days, something strongly desired by big, established carriers, but no decision about that has been announced. Such a move would go some way toward addressing the industry’s concerns about the president’s Thursday announcement.
Mr. Obama and senior administration officials will be meeting with the chief executives to “discuss ways to work together to help people enroll through the Marketplace and efforts to minimize disruption for consumers as they transition to new coverage,” a White House official said. The White House didn’t immediately say which chief executives Mr. Obama will be meeting with.
The meeting comes after the health-insurance industry’s main trade group expressed skepticism about the president’s efforts to help people keep their current insurance plans, saying it could lead to higher prices. It also comes as the House is set to vote on a plan from Rep. Fred Upton (R., Mich.) that would allow insurers to sell policies that don’t meet the law’s standards to new customers. Mr. Obama’s change would limit sales of policies that don’t meet the law’s standards to existing customers.
Democrats are also already mounting their own efforts. Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D., Calif.) and Lois Capps (D., Calif.) wrote a letter urging their state to implement the Obama administration’s change. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D., La.) has expressed hope that state insurance regulators will follow through.
“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 Ignagni, CEO of the trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans.
Mr. Obama announced the changes in a press conference Thursday amid mounting pressure from his own party to act. Consumers, Republicans and Democrats have complained about the health website and about the millions of people who are getting notices from their insurance companies that their plans are being canceled because they don’t meet the new law’s standards.
“We fumbled the rollout on this health-care law,” Mr. Obama said. To the millions of people who are getting cancelation notices even though he previously promised they would be able to keep their plans, he said: “I hear you loud and clear.”
Millions of people have received cancellation notices from their insurers, who said the policies weren’t compliant with new requirements for coverage and have changed too much since 2010 to be eligible for a “grandfathering” exemption. It remained unclear how many insurers would restore policies they had ended, and some industry officials called Mr. Obama’s reversal unworkable.
Quotes in this article were provided by United Press International and the Wall Street Journal.