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November 15th, 2013
06:03 AM ET

Obama Offers Fix For Canceled Plans

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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November 14th, 2013
05:57 AM ET

The Latest on Obamacare Enrollment

Here is CNN's latest reporting on how many Americans have enrolled in Obamacare through the federally run website and through state-run programs, and who have signed up for expanded Medicaid coverage:

White House officials revealed Wednesday that 106,185 Americans signed up for health insurance through Obamacare in the program's first month of operation.

Fewer than 27,000 Americans selected an insurance plan through the federal HealthCare.gov site, which is handling enrollment for 36 states.

In addition to sign-ups, nearly 975,500 people have submitted health insurance applications and learned whether they are eligible for Obamacare subsidies. Those people, however, have not yet selected a plan.

See more at CNN.com.

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November 13th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

New Heat On Health Care Law

Congressional Democrats are upping the pressure on President Barack Obama to fix what's ailing his signature health care initiative with some in the party warning they may be forced to back a House Republican proposal if the White House doesn't offer an alternative by week's end.

"We've got to get out of the bunker and fix these problems," a senior congressional Democratic source told CNN's Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash of flaws in the newly rolled out law that have energized Republican efforts to weaken the President and his allies and derail a policy they have long considered unworkable.

The White House has until Friday to devise a solution to the problem-plagued roll out of the Affordable Care Act, the source said.

That's when House Republicans will take up a bill to address one of the more politically potent Obamacare problems for the President and Democrats - those losing their health coverage due to the law despite Obama's assurances in selling it to the public that Americans could keep their plans if they wanted.

The House bill would allow those insurance plans to extend into next year and gut a major part of the law by allowing anyone to purchase them, even though the existing policies don't meet the tougher requirements of the Obamacare initiative.

Among other things, the Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination for preexisting conditions and mandates coverage for mental health, prenatal care and other issues. This is a primary reason why insurance companies are dropping existing coverage.

"In the absence of a solution that Democrats can support from the White House, you will see more and more Democrats voting for the Upton bill," the Democratic source said of the plan being advanced this week by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan.

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November 8th, 2013
06:05 AM ET

Obama 'Sorry' For Lost Plans

President Barack Obama's apology to Americans whose health insurance plans are being canceled because of the Affordable Care Act opens the door to the question of how the problem will be fixed - even as his administration tries to overcome the dysfunctional rollout of the website where people are supposed to be able to choose new coverage, CNN's Athena Jones reports.

As the president's apology was being aired in an exclusive interview with NBC News on Tuesday, talk was in the air of new legislation in Congress and unspecified steps the president might take on his own.

Meanwhile, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius' office promised "an important announcement related to the Affordable Care Act" during a visit to Atlanta on Friday.

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November 7th, 2013
06:01 AM ET

Democrats on Edge Over Obamacare

More than a dozen Senate democrats face off with the President urging him to get the exchange system up and running fast, CNN's Brianna Keilar reports.

At the most recent hearings Wednesday, criticism from Senate Chairman Max Baucus (D-Montana), who voted for Obamacare,  may have stung the most

For Congressional Democrats facing reelection next year, Obamacare has become a political liability.

President Obama invited 15 of them to the White House Wednesday afternoon to address their concerns.

SEE FULL VIDEO ABOVE

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October 30th, 2013
05:30 AM ET

Sebelius On The Hot Seat For Obamacare Website

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is just hours from entering the lion's den.

At 9 a.m. ET, Sebelius will face off with House Republicans who've been calling for her head over the botched Obamacare rollout, CNN's Brianna Keilar reports.

According to a confidential report obtained by CNN, this hearing comes after the Obama administration was given stark warnings just one month before the healthcare.gov launch that the federal healthcare site was not ready to go live.

At the hearing, Sebelius is expected to point a finger at some of the private contractors her agency hired.

Last week those very contractors pointed the finger at HHS.

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October 29th, 2013
06:07 AM ET

NSA Spying: What Did Obama Know, And When Did He Find Out?

When it comes to leadership and personal responsibility, President Barack Obama has made his stance very clear: "The buck stops with me."

It's a phrase he's echoed countless times in the past. But now, he's dealing with an accountability double-whammy - fallout from the botched Obamacare website and global fury over the wiretapping of some allied leaders' conversations.

So what all did the President know, and when did he find out? Depends on who you ask.

Some U.S. officials have said that Obama didn't know about problems with the health care enrollment site before it launched and that he only recently learned about a National Security Agency operation that wiretapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone for a decade.

"It is my understanding that President Obama was not aware Chancellor Merkel's communications were being collected since 2002," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said. "That is a big problem."

But other officials said Obama - or at least his White House staff - did know about it.

Questions about what the President knew and when he knew it have important implications, analysts say. If Obama was aware, that could mean he isn't being clear with the American public now. And if he wasn't aware, that could mean his own staff kept him in the dark.

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Filed under: NSA spying • Obamacare
October 25th, 2013
05:58 AM ET

What We Learned — And Didn't - From Obamacare Website Hearing

The congressional hearing lasted for 4½ hours. Of the thousands of words spoken between what seemed like all 54 members on the House committee roster and four witnesses representing government contractors responsible for healthcare.gov, five things could be taken away.

No answers to key questions

How many error logs did you receive? How many people have been able to enroll? When will it be fixed? Those are three major questions lawmakers asked. Reasonable, especially since those questions would provide insight about the scope of the problem. But those are the questions that the witnesses did not answer.

"I don't have that information," or, "I don't have that (data) with me" or "I'm not able to provide that information" were the responses.

Witnesses told lawmakers on the Energy and Commerce Committee they would provide that information by 9 a.m. Friday. If not, perhaps next week's hearing on the website woes will provide clarity to some of those questions.

SEE FULL STORY 

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October 24th, 2013
05:29 AM ET

Hearings Start Today Over Obamacare Website

Finger pointing over the technical blunders that gummed up the Obamacare website launch will ensue on Thursday, it appears.

Contractors who helped develop the embattled HealthCare.gov website blame each other and the government, but not themselves, in testimony prepared for the first congressional hearing on the problems engulfing the online enrollment system.

House Energy and Commerce Committee members will grill officials from CGI Federal, Optum/QSSI, Equifax Workforce Solutions and Serco at the hearing to examine technological problems faced by people trying to buy health insurance under President Barack Obama's signature reforms.

Complaints of inability to log in, lengthy delays, incorrect information relayed to insurance companies and other problems have plagued the website since it opened to much fanfare on October 1.

SEE FULL STORY 

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October 23rd, 2013
05:42 AM ET

Rough Obamacare Rollout: 4 Reasons Why

It seems like a long time since Vice President Joe Biden whispered a bit too loudly to President Barack Obama that his imminent signing of the 2010 Affordable Care Act was "a big f-ing deal."

Biden was right - it was big then, and is even bigger more than three years later. However, most of the talk today is about problems with Obama's signature health care reforms that are emboldening hyper-partisan critics on the political right and raising public doubts about the system's viability.

How could it be that the administration, with so much time to implement the overhaul the health insurance overhaul, ended up botching the roll out of the most controversial provision - the individual mandate requiring people to obtain coverage or face a fine.

Some reasons are political and others are technical, but all point to a mix of presidential over-promising, rabid political opposition and the arcane contracting process used by the government to choose which companies got the job of devising a website enrollment system unprecedented in its size and complexity.

SEE FULL STORY 

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