President Obama said in an interview on Thursday that he’s sorry a number of Americans are being forced to change their health care plans despite previous assurances that the Affordable Care Act would allow them to keep their existing plans.
“I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me,” Obama told Chuck Todd during an interview with NBC News at the White House.
“We’ve got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this.”
Obama’s admission represents the latest evolution on the issue dating back to before the Affordable Care Act was even signed into law in 2010. Up through September of this year, Obama was adamant that the Affordable Care Act would not impact Americans who already had their own health insurance.
“If you already have health care, you don’t have to do anything,” Obama said in a speech on September 25thspeech in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
But already 3.5 million Americans have had their healthcare plans cancelled, according to the Associated Press. Most of these are individuals who purchased plans directly from insurers, rather than through a workplace. The reason for the cancellations: their plans changed since the signing of the new healthcare law. While Obama was promising that you could keep your plan if you purchased it prior to the signing of the law on March 23, 2010, what he didn’t say was that if a provider changed the plan its grandfather status would become null and void.
Since individual plans change frequently, the chances of individuals being able to keep their plans was always low. In fact, buried in Obamacare regulations dating back to 2010 is an estimate that states 40 to 67 percent of individual plan owners would lose that coverage because of normal turnover in the individual market.
About 95 percent of Americans with health insurance are covered through their employers or a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid. Conservative estimates now project that the majority of those 5 percent of Americans who buy their own plans (about 14 million people) will likely have to make some kind of adjustment.
The White House and administration surrogates have tried to mitigate criticism by contending some of those individuals will actually end up with cheaper and better plans. Nonetheless, Obama’s failure to include the “grandfather” clause in his if-you-like-it-you-can-keep-it speeches has turned into a growing controversy.
After the law went into effect in October, early reports began to emerge that Americans who buy their own insurance were starting to get letters from insurance companies informing them that their current plans were being cancelled and that they would need to replace their coverage in order to be in compliance with the Affordable Care Act.
White House officials continued to insist that Obama did not “lie” to the American public about the issue. However, throughout October, the administration’s stance continued to evolve.
“What the president said and what everybody said all along is that there are going to be changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act to create minimum standards of coverage,” White House Spokesman Jay Carney said on October 28th. “So it’s true that there are existing health care plans on the individual market that don’t meet those minimum standards and therefore do not qualify for the Affordable Care Act.”
After four years of sticking to his if-you-like-your-coverage promise, Obama recalibrated on Oct. 30. “Ever since the law was passed, if insurers decided to downgrade or cancel these substandard plans, what we said under the law is, you’ve got to replace them with quality, comprehensive coverage because that too was a central premise of the Affordable Care Act from the very beginning,” he explained.
Just over a week later, that recalibration has become an apology.