President Obama apologizes for the misunderstanding

On the same day that HPA conducted a coaching call about the policy cancellations that have been the focus of so much media attention in the past couple weeks, President Obama apologized to Americans who are receiving cancellation notices from their insurance companies after he had repeatedly assured them they could keep their current coverage.

In an NBC News interview, the President said that he was sorry that Americans “are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me.”

In the months leading up to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama said over and over again that people who like their current coverage would be able to keep it, which was mostly true. There is a grandfathering provision in the legislation, and the regulations on keeping your current coverage were issued by HHS on June 17th, 2010.

There are a few problems, though, especially in the individual market:

  • Not all insurance companies continued to offer the grandfathered plans after the law was passed, and others have phased those plans out since that time. If the insurer discontinues the product line, those who lose their coverage are forced into one of the new, pricier plans.
  • For those who did have the option of continuing their current coverage, it wasn’t always feasible since most people change plans frequently to keep the coverage affordable. Switching plans is one of the things that make an individual lose his or her grandfathering status under the regulations.
  • Not everyone understood the rules, and this is where the President is partially to blame. Over the past three years, he has repeatedly said that people who have coverage currently don’t have to do anything – they can keep their plan. He should have clarified that that was only true if their plan was in place on the day the law was signed: March 23, 2010.

The fallout over the realization that millions of Americans are losing their current coverage and being forced to purchase more costly ACA-compliant plans in 2014 coupled with the shaky rollout of the exchange site has been pretty severe, forcing the President’s approval rating to its lowest level in two years.

The President says that his administration is now seeing what it “can do to close some of the holes and gaps in the law,” implying that those with non-grandfathered individual coverage may end up with the option to keep their current policies. Stay tuned…

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