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Obama will allow people to keep old health plans for a year

Joe Centers • Nov 14, 2013 at 8:31 PM

WASHINGTON (MCT) — President Obama announced today that he will allow Americans being kicked off their health insurance plans because of his signature health-care law to keep their insurance for another year.

“We’re going to solve the problems that are there,” Obama said. “And we’re going to get it right.”

Obama had vowed during the debate over the Affordable Care Act that those who liked their health-care plans would be able to keep them under his law.

But his law also set a minimum level of benefits to comply with the 2010 health-care law, such as requiring health-insurance plans to cover mental health, prescription drugs, dental and vision for children and other coverage.

In recent weeks, insurance companies on the individual market whose plans fell short of those requirements had begun notifying consumers that they’d be ending those plans.

During a White House press conference Obama said he would use an administrative fix to allow people to keep the plans in question for one year.

His announcement came a day before the House was set to vote on a Republican-sponsored bill that would “grandfather” in health-care policies that would’ve been cancelled under Obamacare.

Disgruntled House Democrats have threatened to support that bill, though House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., warned that it was “very dangerous” and “completely disruptive.”

Obama’s health-care law did have a provision that “grandfathered” in plans, but only those that existed on March 23, 2010, and hadn’t been changed since then to substantially cut benefits or increase costs for consumers.

Sen. Rob Portman questioned whether Obama’s fix was legal.

“As creative as the president has been in using administrative action in order to change the law, including delaying the employer mandate for a year, I don’t know if he has the ability to do this without legislation.”

The Ohio Republican said a one-year delay wouldn’t provide the necessary fix.

“My biggest concern is that if we simply kick the can down the road, we’re putting more and more people at risk,” he said, adding that it’s possible employers will change their coverage in such a way that results in other people having their plans cancelled. “The only way to really deal with it is to start over and change this approach and let people keep what they have and focus on the cost of health care.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester, also questioned whether Obama could make the fix through administrative action.

“When it comes to this health-care law, the White House doesn’t have much credibility,” he said. “The only way to fully protect the American people is to scrap this law once and for all. There is no way to fix this.”

By Jessica Wehrman and Sophia Lindsey, The Columbus Dispatch, Distributed by MCT

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