After an embarrassingly glitch-ridden rollout of healthcare.gov website last month, the Obama administration this week found itself in a state of agony over missteps with new registrations and rules under its landmark healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
On Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama sought to step in to stem the escalating confusion about whether individuals who purchased insurance policies earlier would be allowed to retain their policies, or whether the policy cancellation letters that many had received from their insurance companies remained in force.
Using what was described by senior White House officials as an “administrative fix”, Mr. Obama will make it clear to insurance companies that under an “extension of the grandfathering principle” the ACA will not require them to upgrade insurance plans for all individuals instead allowing them to delay expiration notices for one year.
Further, the President advised that where policies are changed in 2014 owing to market reforms under the ACA, insurance companies must inform consumers about what benefits and protections will no longer be included in their policies.
Meanwhile partisan bickering appeared imminent on Capitol Hill as a proposal championed by Republican Representative Fred Upton, allowing insurance companies to continue existing health plans for a year, was set to be voted upon. White House officials argued that such a move would entirely undermine the law.
The suggestion by conservatives that Mr. Obama had misled the nation by suggesting that those who were happy with their policies could retain them without changes came on the heels of poorer-than-expected enrolment figures for the malfunctioning healthcare.govwebsite.
One month since it was operationalised, the “Obamacare” website has succeeded in registering only 106,185 people, far short of the Congressional Budget Office’s projection of enrolling seven million people into private insurance and nine million people into Medicaid by March 31.
The awkwardness surrounding the episode was exacerbated earlier this week when a staunch ally of Mr. Obama, former President Bill Clinton, said in an interview, “Even if it takes a change to the law, the President should honour the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.”