President Barack Obama on Thursday rightly addressed the serious problems with the health care law’s rollout now that millions of Americans are losing health insurance plans he repeatedly said they could keep under his signature health care law.

Obama on Thursday went beyond his earlier apology to Americans who are losing health insurance plans.

Facing growing pressure from anxious Congressional Democrats, Obama announced an administrative fix to a central element of his signature health care law, allowing Americans who are losing their health insurance coverage because of the Affordable Care Act to retain it.

The president said the fix would allow insurance companies to renew plans that do not meet the higher standard of the new health care law for a year for existing policyholders, though they would be required to notify the policy holder of alternative available coverage options, as well as any benefits they might lose by staying on their existing plan.

Obama’s plan would apply only to people who have had their existing policies already canceled — those currently without insurance would not be able to buy these old plans.

State insurance commissioners would have the right to override the administrative proposal.

The president’s new proposal comes at a time when there are already several problems surrounding the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, his signature legislative achievement, often referred to as “Obamacare.”

The health care website that was supposed to be an easy way for Americans to purchase insurance has been riddled with technical issues.

This week the Obama administration revealed that just 26,795 people enrolled during the first month of operations for the federal health care website. About 79,000 have enrolled in the 14 states with their own websites.

The overall number of 106,000 signups for October was barely one-fifth of what officials had projected and a small fraction of the millions who have received private coverage cancellations as result of the federal law.

An even bigger problem is that at least 3.5 million Americans have reportedly received cancellation notices from their insurance companies.

The health care law affects both the individual market where people buy insurance on their own and the group health insurance markets where an employer does the buying and tells workers their options.

Most Americans have group health insurance.

The people being adversely affected by the Affordable Care Act are those who buy insurance on the individual marketplace, a number that totals between 12 million and 15 million people.

But well before Obamacare became law, a 2004 study found that just 17 percent of individual policyholders kept their plans for more than two years. That’s because many people buy individual insurance for the purpose of buying short-term protection. Also, people in the individual market might be dropping the health insurance plan they have as much as insurance companies might be canceling the plan altogether.

The Obama administration should have prepared people more for rollout problems and the president should have been candid with Americans about the full impact of the new law and possible adverse effects it could have on some.

The president made a promise that was impossible to keep. The law mandated that insurance coverage must meet certain standards and that policies falling short of those standards would no longer be valid unless they were grandfathered. This means some policies were expected to disappear.

The health care rollout blunders are overshadowing the real problem of 47 million Americans not having health care insurance.

It is also important to not lose sight of the fact that because of the Affordable Care Act now millions of Americans will be able to have affordable health insurance and will not be denied health insurance because of preexisting conditions.

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune)


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