White House Signals Obama May Cave on Health Law Fix

Image: White House Signals Obama May Cave on Health Law Fix

Wednesday, 13 Nov 2013 04:19 PM


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The administration Wednesday indicated it was willing to consider amending the president’s healthcare law to halt some of the hundreds of thousands individual insurance policy cancellations that have raised alarm among voters and lawmakers.

Legislation proposed by Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu and other Democrats to let individuals keep their current health care policies as long as they’re current on payments “shares the goal” of President Barack Obama for fixing the health-care law, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

“We’re going to work with her” to come up with a solution to the cancellations, Carney said. While he and other White House officials previously stressed they were searching for administrative solutions, Carney said today “that does not preclude other avenues.”

The new openness to legislation follows meetings between Obama and his advisers with congressional Democrats over the past week and remarks yesterday by former President Bill Clinton, who said Obama should keep the pledge he repeatedly made that Americans wouldn’t lose coverage they liked when the law took effect.

Carney's comments also came just prior to the administration release of enrollment numbers showing than 27,000 people managed to sign up in Obamacare last month in the 36 states relying on the problem-filled federal website.

The dismal numbers released Wednesday by federal health officials were even lower than estimates recently circulated.

The administration says fewer than 27,000 people managed to enroll for health insurance last month in the 36 states relying on the problem-filled federal website for President Barack Obama's overhaul.

The dismal numbers released Wednesday by federal health officials were even lower than estimates recently circulated.

Private insurance enrollment after the first month of the health care rollout was only about one-fifth what the administration had expected during that time period. Enrollment numbers totaled 106,185. A Sept. 5 administration estimate had projected that 494,620 people would enroll in the first month.

Obama last week offered a public apology over the cancellations and had a White House meeting with Senate Democrats who face voters in 2014 to ask for patience as the administration works to remedy the troubled rollout of the law.

House Democrats today confronted David Simas, the deputy senior adviser to the president, and Mike Hash, the director of the Office of Health Reform at the Department of Health and Human Services, during a closed-door meeting.

The administration is moving to quell the dissent among Democrats before a vote in the House later this week on a proposal from Michigan Republican Representative Fred Upton to let individuals keep existing policies through next year.

The White House says Upton’s measure would undermine the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by letting insurers “sell new policies that were substandard,” Carney said.

Obama plans to announce a course of action “sooner rather than later,” Carney said without being specific.

The rollout of the law, known as Obamacare, has been beset by computer flaws hampering consumers’ ability to sign up on the federal healthcare.gov website, questions about the security of private information, and complaints by individuals who are losing their insurance plans and face premium increases for new policies.

The administration said today that about 106,000 people in the U.S. signed up for private health insurance through Obamacare last month, far less than its enrollment goals.

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