White House press secretary Jay Carney tried to defend senior administration official Valerie Jarrett’s tweet from last night where she said “FACT: Nothing in #Obamacare forces people out of their health plans. No change is required unless insurance companies change existing plans” Tuesday in the White House press conference.
CBS White House correspondent Major Garrett asked Carney how he and Jarrett could possibly contend that the Obama administration is not responsible for the elimination of individual health insurance plans when the Affordable Care Act produced the means for HHS to write regulations to decide which policies would be allowed under the law.
Carney again obfuscated the point, alleging that plans only become ineligible if insurance companies implemented “changes” to their policies:
MAJOR GARRETT: As for the Affordable Care Act, Valerie Jarrett sent out a tweet last night saying nothing in the Affordable Care Act is requiring any of these changes. and I’d like to see if you could just say — understand how — the way the American public would say, wait a minute, the law itself creates the means by which the administration judges, whether an individual insurance policy has changed sufficiently to meet the standards, meaning if you’re after the grandfathering period and something about the coverage changed, then the administration can judge whether or not that qualifies for the grandfathering exemption. So the administration is involved in evaluating whether or not this coverage does or does not meet the standards and whether people have to receive a canceling notice. Is that not true?
CARNEY: Well, let’s be clear. That would be true a year from now or five years from now. If an insurer put forward a plan and — (inaudible) — the standards then it did not meet the standards, you know, it didn’t provide maternity care, or it didn’t provide mental health services, or it tried to impose annual caps or something like that, the answer would be no, that didn’t meet the standards. So the only thing that could be done was the law was written is that –
GARRETT: (Off mic) — enforced it, right?
CARNEY: Well, right. And so what — the point that she was making and that I and others made last night and I’m making today is that as written, the law granted a grandfather status to individuals who had insurance on the individual market before the passage of the Affordable Care Act and kept that insurance and wanted to keep it for as long as they were alive if it — is the insurer wanted to have them on that plan. But if the insurer, last year or the year before or earlier this year, told, let’s say it’s you, that guess what, your plan that you signed up for for a year, we’re changing –
GARRETT: (Off mic.)
CARNEY: — reduce benefits or anything.
GARRETT: The administration steps in and says, we judge that to be a significant –
CARNEY: The administration doesn’t step in. the insurance company understands and has understood since the –
GARRETT: (Off mic) — significant enough change, and so now that’s no longer grandfathered. That’s the process, is it not?
CARNEY: Well, you’re — in terms of the agency here, I think the insurer is making a decision to basically cancel the plan and reissue or offer the individual a new plan with different benefits or different costs.
However, the White House press secretary ignored the fact that normal fluctuations in the individual insurance market often result in changes that fall under the HHS regulations, effectively disqualifying many plans.
Moreover, as NBC reports, the Obama administration knew this when writing the regulations in July 2010:
None of this should come as a shock to the Obama administration. The law states that policies in effect as of March 23, 2010 will be “grandfathered,” meaning consumers can keep those policies even though they don’t meet requirements of the new health care law. But the Department of Health and Human Services then wrote regulations that narrowed that provision, by saying that if any part of a policy was significantly changed since that date — the deductible, co-pay, or benefits, for example — the policy would not be grandfathered.
Yet President Obama, who had promised in 2009, “if you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan,” was still saying in 2012, “If [you] already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance.”
“This says that when they made the promise, they knew half the people in this market outright couldn’t keep what they had and then they wrote the rules so that others couldn’t make it either,” said Robert Laszewski, of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a consultant who works for health industry firms. Laszewski estimates that 80 percent of those in the individual market will not be able to keep their current policies and will have to buy insurance that meets requirements of the new law, which generally requires a richer package of benefits than most policies today.