President Obama announced Thursday that his administration will let health insurers extend existing health plans on the individual and small-group markets into 2014. The administrative policy change will let insurers reach out to the millions of Americans being dropped from their plans so that they can renew their insurance for another year while the market adjusts to new Obamacare regulations.
"I completely get how upsetting this could be for a lot of Americans, particularly after assurances they heard from me," Mr. Obama said from the White House briefing room. "To those Americans, I hear you loud and clear."
Insurers that extend existing plans must also notify consumers of what protections these renewed plans do not include. They must also notify customers that there are more options available on the new Obamacare marketplaces that offer better coverage, and that tax credits are available for many consumers. While insurers will be able to let customers keep their existing plans for another year, they will not be able to let new customers buy these existing plans that do not meet new Obamacare standards.
Now that the new Obamacare insurance marketplaces are opening, more than 4,800,000 people across the country are being dropped from their insurance plans, according to the latest CBS News tally. Plans are being canceled if they fail to meet the health care law's 10 minimum standards, including maternity care, emergency visits, mental health treatment and pediatric dental care.
The dropped plans seemingly violate Mr. Obama's 2009 campaign pledge that, "If you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance."
"It's clear the American people simply can't trust this White House," 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."
Mr. Obama acknowledged Thursday that he will "have to win back some credibility on this health care law in particular and on a whole range of these issues in general."
He added, "I think it's fair to say the [Obamacare] rollout has been rough so far, and I think everybody understands I'm not happy the rollout has been wrought with a whole range problems I've been deeply concerned about."
The president's stance on the problem of dropped plans has shifted significantly in the past few weeks -- while he has now apologized for the issue and has acknowledged it is a problem, he initiallysuggested that he wasn't breaking his promise. Late last month, Mr. Obama pointed out that plans that existed before the Affordable Care Act was enacted were "grandfathered in" to the system -- consumers only lost coverage if insurers altered those policies after the law took effect. In that case, Mr. Obama said, insurers had to "replace them with quality, comprehensive coverage."
Mr. Obama conceded to CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett, "My expectation was that for 98 percent of the American people, either it genuinely wouldn't change at all or they'd be pleasantly surprised with the options in the marketplace and that the grandfather clause would cover the rest. That proved not to be the case. And that's on me. And the American people -- those who got cancellation notices do deserve and have received an apology from me."
The problem, meanwhile, has been compounded by the fact that many people have been unable or discouraged from shopping the new Obamacare marketplaces because of the significant technical problems with HealthCare.gov and some state-run Obamacare websites.
The Health and Human Services Department reported Wednesday that just over 106,000 people have enrolled in plans on the new marketplaces so far -- well below the approximately 500,000 enrollees the administration was expecting to see in the first month of open enrollment.