Government Watch / Opinion

New O-Care Delay to Help Midterm Dems

from The Hill – by Elise Viebeck – The Obama administration is set to announce another major delay in implementing the Affordable Care Act, easing election pressure on Democrats.

As early as this week, according to two sources, the White House will announce a new directive allowing insurers to continue offering health plans that do not meet ObamaCare’s minimum coverage requirements.

Prolonging the “keep your plan” fix will avoid another wave of health policy cancellations otherwise expected this fall.

The cancellations would have created a firestorm for Democratic candidates in the last, crucial weeks before Election Day.

The White House is intent on protecting its allies in the Senate, where Democrats face a battle to keep control of the chamber.

“I don’t see how they could have a bunch of these announcements going out in September,” one consultant in the health insurance industry said. “Not when they’re trying to defend the Senate and keep their losses at a minimum in the House. This is not something to have out there right before the election.”

The White House and the Department of Health and Human Services on Monday both said they had no updates to announce.

Late last year, the administration was grappling with the beleaguered and millions of canceled health plans in the individual market.

Republicans noted President Obama had repeatedly promised that no one would lose their health plan if they wanted to keep it.

Obama subsequently called on states and the insurance industry to allow people to keep their existing plans for an additional year. While many states agreed, it left the administration with a dilemma.

A one-year moratorium pushed the deadline beyond the midterm election, but insurers must send out cancellation notices 90 days in advance. That would mean notices in the mail by Oct. 1, five weeks before voters go to the polls.

The administration’s decision to pursue another extension was confirmed by insurance sources who predicted a public announcement would be “imminent.” It is unclear how long the extension will be, though one source believed it could last to the end of Obama’s second term, and perhaps beyond.

This issue is sure to be discussed during the 2016 presidential race, in which Hillary Clinton is expected to run.

In November, amid the rash of health plan cancellations, former President Clinton said Obama should allow people to keep their current coverage.

“I personally believe, even if it takes a change in the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got,” Clinton said at the time.

Allowing insurers to continue offering noncompliant health plans for several years would substantially alter the health insurance landscape under ObamaCare.

It would also undercut one rationale for the healthcare reform law.

Under the Affordable Care Act, health plans are required to offer 10 medical benefits that the Obama administration deems essential.

Some of the services are popular, such as prescription drug coverage, but others, such as maternity and pediatric care, have been criticized as expensive as well as being unnecessary for many policyholders, such as older people.

Nonetheless, the White House has consistently argued its requirements improve health insurance standards and shield consumers from unexpected costs associated with bare-bones policies.

“There are a number of Americans, fewer than 5 percent of Americans, who’ve got cut-rate plans that don’t offer real financial protection in the event of a serious illness or an accident,” Obama said in Boston in October.

“Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad-apple insurers had free rein every single year to limit the care that you received, or use minor preexisting conditions to jack up your premiums or bill you into bankruptcy. So a lot of people thought they were buying coverage, and it turned out not to be so good.”

The new standards have also created a political mess for the White House by forcing insurance companies to cancel policies that do not comply.

The rush of cancellation letters last fall forced Obama to acknowledge that he had been wrong to promise that Americans could keep their plans under the reform. The administration later said that people with canceled plans could buy catastrophic policies once intended mainly for young people.

While the storm has quieted since the fall, Republicans are eager to note that many vulnerable Democrats also promised before ObamaCare passed that consumers could keep their plans.

“If you like the insurance that you have, you’ll be able to keep it,” Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said on MSNBC’s “Hardball” in 2009.

Landrieu, a GOP target in her 2014 election, has since proposed a bill that would allow people in the individual market to keep their current policies as long as they continue to pay their premiums. Other vulnerable Senate Democrats back the legislation.

“When we passed the Affordable Care Act, we did so with the intention that if you liked your health plan, you could keep it,” Landrieu said in November. “A promise was made, and this legislation will ensure that this promise is kept.”

Health insurers are meeting in Washington, D.C., this week for two major conferences hosted by their trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans.

Several sources said they had heard chatter about an extension but that the administration had not made efforts to discuss the possibility with industry officials.

“From a political standpoint, that’s expected,” said one source of the silence. “Nobody is surprised. It’s not like it’s our first time around.”

The industry has been the subject of a variety of delays and extensions in ObamaCare’s rollout over the past five months.

One company executive complained that the White House’s tendency to shift deadlines makes it hard to price health policies accurately.

“These continual delays, these stops and starts, make it very difficult because we set rates based on predictive modeling,” the executive said.

“When you change the rules, it has a detrimental impact on your ability to calculate your risk pool and your prices.”


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6 years ago

David Cass says: 03/08/2014 at 11:23 am PaulE: The intelligence of the American people is not the complete problem. The people who receive benefits from the government are not going to vote for candidates who will take those handouts away. To those societal leeches, voting Democrat is doing the smart thing. If we want things to change, we’ll have to make sure that the makers turn out to the polls in greater numbers than the takers. God help us all if Hillary gets in. Earl says: 03/08/2014 at 3:45 pm Some of you defeated ones could be doing more constructive… Read more »

Randy R
6 years ago

First of all, if we (the GOP) want to keep losing elections then keep blaming it on the takers. Yes, there are people who want nothing more than handouts but I refuse to believe it’s the whole so called 47%. If we can get the government out of the way (like Reagan did) by reducing regulations and let businesses grow themselves we will create enough jobs for everyone. I am and have been employed for over 30 yrs. Most of the people that I know who are on Fed. assistance would much rather be able to get a job where… Read more »

6 years ago

We need to get Republicans out in droves in order to take over the Senate and keep the House. People don’t understand how very important this God given right is. We need to explain in basic facts what is happening to America. I try to tell Democrats, before I begin talking, that what I am going to say isn’t against them, because their Democrat Party isn’t what it used to be. In other words, I try not to offend them and put them on the defensive….. I try to get them to realize that their party isn’t what they think… Read more »

6 years ago

Mr. Obama is being allowed to “change” anything and everything he wants to – for some reason. WHY he isn’t being tested on this unilateral dictatorship is beyond me. By a snap of his bony fingers, it’s pretty naïve to assume the insurance industry can just resume any policy they’ve canceled or adjusted. So because he now says “it’s okay to keep your crappy-azz policy because I say so” ….that makes it so?????? We either need to vote in more women to the Senate and House, or dig around for some candidates who actually have some ballz.

6 years ago

Folks, If you tell your friends and anyone who will listen that if we as Americans don’t get out and vote and speak our peace then you have no one to blame but yourself. We must all ban together and fight the government and get some one in who believes in GOD and COUNTRY. We let this happen and no one to blame but us. Now get our heads out of the sand and fight back with what God gave you. Talk to all your friends and the young around and see how they are thinking and offer you input… Read more »

6 years ago

I don’t think the Democrats have much chance of retaining control of the senate after November regardless of what desperate moves they may make. The only reason they keep changing the rules is because they already know they are in deep deep trouble. They are not going to be able to turn out their base in November. Five days ago in the Texas primary, even though there are probably more Democrats than Republicans overall, about two and one half times more Republicans turned out to vote. In most cases it was the more conservative candidates(among the Republicans) who won. That… Read more »

Roger Teska
6 years ago

Gentlemen, let’s not underestimate the intelligence of the American people! Speaking as a Republican, I have no doubt that the majority of “conservatives”, at least, know full well what the President’s political goals are. They’re not blind! Many of them are watchers of Fox News, and are kept up to date on political issues. As for the “takers” and the “makers”, let’s make a clear distinction between people who vote for the Democrats in order to get “handouts”, and those of us who have EARNED benefits for having worked at least 30 years as federal government employees. Federal retirees were… Read more »

Mari J.
6 years ago

I have a couple of questions. Supposedly those people who had their insurance cancelled last year were supposed to get their cancelled policy back. A lot of insurance companies don’t have the ability to do this and I wonder how many states have authorized this to be done? This is one place where the states can overrule O. This information would let us know how many of those people will be getting their insurance cancelled around Oct. The number of policies that actually got saved is an unknown and I certainly would not bet on it being the majority of… Read more »

Jeri Veaudry
6 years ago

I can’t begin to understand how our country is still on a free fall. Apathy? Why aren’t the citizens of The United States not voting? If we don’t vote, our government isn’t being held accountable. How can our elected officials live with themselves? How can we be duped? Sounded like a great idea (poorly thought through and implemented ). The old adage if it’s to good to be true it’s not. Obamacare is just a joke. Computers without the capacity and breeches in security up the ying yang. We are suppose to embrace and be thankful for this wonderful opportunity.… Read more »

Frank Venis.
6 years ago

If The Republicans don’t win The Senate in Nov. Turn out the lights.

6 years ago

Every illegal modification to Obamacare that Obama has been making has been to ensure the Democrats retain the Senate in 2014. With the latest announcement of Obamacare delays going into 2016, he’s also looking to ensure a Democrat (that would be Hillary of course) stays in the White House to finish up the transformation process. If the American people are too stupid to see through all these transparent attempts to buy both elections, then we are already lost as a Constitutional Republic.

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