Can Congress really save insurance plans lost under Obamacare?
November 13th, 2013
01:01 PM ET
11 months ago

Can Congress really save insurance plans lost under Obamacare?

Washington (CNN) – President Obama was wrong when he promised, "If you like your health insurance, you can keep it."

But lawmakers promising legislation to reinstate some of those plans cancelled because of the Affordable Care Act might be making an equally hollow promise.

There are multiple proposals on Capitol Hill aiming to fix this broken promise of Obamacare. But even if Congress can come together to pass a bill that would help the president keep his pledge, there's little indication it would have any immediate effect on those cancelled insurance plans.

One proposal introduced by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, would require insurance companies to continue offering plans so long as customers stayed up to date with their payments.

Another put forward by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michigan, would give health insurance companies the option to continue offering plans currently available on the individual market, while also allowing customers to continue to enroll in those plans. Republicans in the House of Representatives plan to hold a vote on Rep. Upton's proposal on Friday.

Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for the trade association America's Health Insurance Plans, says both of these proposals leave many questions unanswered.

"Health insurance is regulated at a state level," Zirkelbach said. Any federal mandate to offer certain insurance plans - or even a law allowing companies to continue plans - may contradict decisions by state regulators.

Reconciling these contradictions would complicate any proposal to address these problems, Zirkelbach said. And requiring companies to continue to offer certain plans, as Sen. Landrieu's proposal would do, would be "incredibly disruptive."

"Health plans can't arbitrarily decide what coverage they want to offer in a marketplace," he said. "Health insurance is regulated at a state level. States' rules determine what health insurance companies can offer."

The state-level approval process can take several months, and health care industry advisor Robert Laszewski told NPR on Tuesday that it's too late for insurers to change their offerings.

"It's not at all feasible," Laszweski told NPR, because companies have spent much of the past year preparing for the new regulations under the Affordable Care Act, and all of the plans that kick in on January 1 have undergone a thorough rate review process with state regulators where they're available.

"Even if you decide to go 'never mind' about all these cancellations, how is the insurance company going to send out letters to all these people within the space of a couple of weeks, rejigger all of their computer systems that took months to redo in the first place, and get these people to decide whether they want to try for Obamacare, which is the only place they can get subsidies, or try to stay on their own policies?" Laszewski asked.


Filed under: Obamacare
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. truth hurts but reality bites

    President Obama was wrong when he promised, "If you like your health insurance, you can keep it."
    But lawmakers promising legislation to reinstate some of those plans cancelled because of the Affordable Care Act might be making an equally hollow promise.
    -–

    PLEASE!! It wasn't a promise. It was a blatant lie and Obama and the White House knew it was a lie because they debated inside the White House about whether Obama should be saying it and the political hacks won the day and had him keep lying to the American people.

    November 13, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  2. rs

    They could nationalize the insurance industry...oh, wait wouldn't that be "socialism"?
    In short, unless Congress or the President want to create more law, or impose more regulation, they have zero power over private industry to re-enroll people into dead polices.

    November 13, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Of course, not. The Republicans cannot restore the cancelled plans. They're going to run into the reality of their vaunted market forces, which says companies change plans all of the time and it has nothing to do with the ACA. Can imagine "big government" telling private insurance companies, "You know that plan you cancelled at the end of 2011? You have to bring it back. Furthermore, you must never cancel it again."

    Can you imagine conservatives talking that way? Guess what? That's the reality of it, folks. The "government is the problem" crowd wants to prove once again just how poorly they actually run the government, by intruding where they don't belong.

    November 13, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  4. A True Conservative

    President Obama was wrong?? No, it appears that he flat out lied.......oh and BTW did you hear that we are now losing money on the GM bailout.....didn't someone tell us how we were making money on that deal? Another lie?

    November 13, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  5. foxghostwriter

    "Health plans can't arbitrarily decide what coverage they want to offer in a marketplace," he said. "Health insurance is regulated at a state level. States' rules determine what health insurance companies can offer."

    Conservatives didn't know that they already have a government official telling them what they have to have in an insurance plan. Does that mean that they were less free than they thought or just more stupid than we believed?

    November 13, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  6. Tony

    I have an idea. Democrats should proposed a legislation so that, for the same premiums that people were paying on the canceled plans, the government would guarantee the same benefits that people would have gotten from the canceled plans. Because the canceled plans were designed to have minimal benefits– they were cheap for a reason– the government would not be on the hook for much. This would create a source of revenue for the government and help reduce the deficits.

    November 13, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  7. Gurgyl

    Do you believe these congress thugs, the most horrible congress in USA history. They are American Al Queda.

    November 13, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  8. Fair is Fair

    "Health insurance is regulated at a state level," Zirkelbach said. Any federal mandate to offer certain insurance plans – or even a law allowing companies to continue plans – may contradict decisions by state regulators.
    ------–
    It should have been left at the state level.

    Wait, just wait. This thing has more shoes to drop than Imelda Marcos.

    November 13, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  9. Hector Slagg

    There is of course only one way. Repeal the ACA. People need jobs. Somewhere somebody said, You can't fix stupid. Certainly the last 100 years of Liberal Politics says a lot for that statement.

    November 13, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  10. Thomas

    Did Canada , Germany , England , Japan , Taiwan have this problem providing quality affordable healthcare ?

    Oh thats right , they understand a thriving economy must have a quality healthcare system .

    And to think we once went to the moon .

    November 13, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  11. Fair is Fair

    Tony

    I have an idea. Democrats should proposed a legislation so that, for the same premiums that people were paying on the canceled plans, the government would guarantee the same benefits that people would have gotten from the canceled plans. Because the canceled plans were designed to have minimal benefits– they were cheap for a reason– the government would not be on the hook for much. This would create a source of revenue for the government and help reduce the deficits.
    ------–
    Obama Life & Casualty. Brilliant.

    November 13, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  12. Donna

    Tony
    I have an idea. Democrats should proposed a legislation so that, for the same premiums that people were paying on the canceled plans, the government would guarantee the same benefits that people would have gotten from the canceled plans. Because the canceled plans were designed to have minimal benefits– they were cheap for a reason– the government would not be on the hook for much. This would create a source of revenue for the government and help reduce the deficits.
    --

    Sounds great. One problem. You don't know what you are talking about. You're a Democrat right? Many of the plans that are cancelled do not meet Obamacare required coverage, including pediatric care for 60 year olds, drug dependency coverage for Mormons, pregnancy coverage for guys and people beyond child bearing age.

    The plans could have zero deductible and pay 100% of the costs of medical expenses with zero copay and they would still be deemed substandard by Obamacare. Do you understand now?

    November 13, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  13. freedom

    That's right – the damage is only beginning – and the democrats OWN IT – 100%. Not one republican vote supported the monstrosity of Obamacare.

    November 13, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  14. Cary Grant

    What are they going to do, ORDER insurance companies to lose money? There is no way out of this morass short of throwing the whole stinking mess out.

    November 13, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  15. Cary Grant

    If congress was REQUIRED to use obamaIdon'tcare, the program would have been entirely different or never would have been passed.

    November 13, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  16. Tigas

    You expect health insurance companies to let go of their new found wealth and prosperity that has been guaranteed by Obama?!
    Higher rates = check
    Millions that have to become customers because it is the law = check

    Obamacare has ensured the a bright and wealth future of insurance company execs for generations.

    November 13, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  17. Tony

    Fair is fair, it is called a single payer. The rest of the civilized world has it.

    Donna, do you know that there is a grandfather clause in Obamacare, and that insurance plans don't need to meet all of Obamacare requirements to be grandfathered? My plan waives all of Obamacare's requirements. You can have your plans back, as well as the minimal benefits that came with them.

    By the way, if you can find an affordable plan that pays 100% of the costs of medical expenses with zero copay, please let all of the people whose plans got canceled know.

    November 13, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  18. rs

    A True Conservative

    President Obama was wrong?? No, it appears that he flat out lied.......oh and BTW did you hear that we are now losing money on the GM bailout.....didn't someone tell us how we were making money on that deal? Another lie?

    --------------–
    Is it more or less than the $24 billion the GOP cost America a month ago?

    November 13, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  19. just asking

    hey democrats and lefties!!! got a question for you??? do you wish the democrats could now vote for one of those house bills that repealed obamacare???? or are you all doubling down on the lies and failure that is obama and obamacare???

    November 13, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  20. NameFrank Deery

    What we finally know sbout this plan is this:
    redistribution of wealth from The already stretched Middle Class and affluent, who could care less, for now, is The Goal. This sort of "plan" and it's bad start would work under A Socialist Dictatorship, with heads facing firing squades if they did not agree or deliver! Gladly, The US is still a beacon of freedom, thanks to Republicans, who warned, like Paul Revere, 3 Years ago, Obamacare would Fail! Crashing is more appropriate for risky start-ups than an Obama/Pelosi/ Reid/ Sebelius/Park/Chao
    fIASCO spin on massive ineptness!

    Congress! Kill this bill before it destroys what we have now and costs taxpayers millions in repairs and fixes!

    Obama? Resign! Let Biden do it. Golfing and
    fundraising is Not needed now.

    November 13, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |