Americans may be able to keep their individual insurance plans for one more year, under a fix offered by President Obama on Thursday to address a controversial provision of the Affordable Care Act.
The deal is meant to mollify millions of people enraged after their insurers canceled policies that do not meet Obamacare requirements. But how many it will ultimately help remains to be seen.
The uproar over the cancellations has ensnared the White House for weeks, shining a spotlight on Obama's previous promise that people who liked their insurance plans can keep them.
"This fix won't solve every problem for every person. But it's going to help a lot of people," the president said at the White House.
But the fix, as reported earlier by CNN's Dana Bash, puts the onus of the renewals outside the president's control: The administration is not requiring insurers or state insurance commissioners to extend the existing plans, but instead is letting them offer an additional year of coverage.
Also, insurers must notify policyholders of the difference in benefits between their policies and the Obamacare plans available on the insurance exchanges. And the companies must inform people that additional policies are available on the exchanges and that subsidies may be available to those who qualify.
Not everyone who has received a cancellation notice, however, may be able to extend.
Since insurance is regulated at the state level, it remains up to the commissioners to permit the extensions and the companies to do so. The president noted that not all commissioners may agree to extensions. At least four states - California, Idaho, Virginia and Kentucky - are requiring all individual plans adhere to Obamacare rules.
The insurance industry said the reversal could cause major problems, including a hike in premiums if fewer younger and healthier people opt to buy in the exchanges.
"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, chief executive of America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group. " Additional steps must be taken to stabilize the marketplace and mitigate the adverse impact on consumers."
In his remarks, Obama said he didn't want his signature policy to be the reason people are losing their insurance.
"The key point is that it allows us to be able to say to the folks who receive these notices, look, you know, I, the president of the United States, and the insurance - the insurance model of the Affordable Care Act - is not going to be getting in the way of you shopping in the individual market that you used to have," he said.
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