Republicans in Congress are citing the cancellation of thousands of health insurance plans, after President Barack Obama told Americans they could keep their policies, as a reason to delay the federal health-care law.
"If the president knew that these letters were coming and still indicated that you could keep your health care plan if you liked it, now that raises some serious questions about the sales job of Obamacare," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told reporters today after a party leadership meeting.
House Republicans are focused on Obama’s repeated pledge that people who liked their existing coverage could keep it, as the Ways and Means Committee investigated the debut of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act today in Washington.
Marilyn Tavenner, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, said individuals lost coverage if their insurers had changed the plans since 2010, when the law was enacted.
New plans, she said, must cover 10 essential benefits, can’t judge people for pre-existing conditions or discriminate based on gender.
"There are lots of things that are required under the Affordable Care Act that actually protect customers," Tavenner said.
The cancellation notices add to the political headache for the Obama administration, which has wrestled with flaws that hobbled the Oct. 1 debut of a website created to give people access to plans under the law known as Obamacare.
"There is no way to fix this monstrosity," House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told reporters today at the U.S. Capitol. "I’ve heard from hundreds of my constituents who are seeing their premiums rise, they’re seeing their policies being canceled; many are losing their plans."
The notices ending coverage are tied to the law that says health insurance policies that fail to offer added benefits, such as prescription drug coverage and free preventive care, can’t be sold after this year even if they’re less expensive.
Florida’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield said about 300,000 members are affected by the provision, while California’s Blue Shield and Oakland-based Kaiser Permanente will withdraw policies for a combined 280,000.
Obama’s pledge about individuals keeping their plans was aimed at calming consumers worried about being forced to give up policies and doctors they liked as the program expanded coverage to many of the nation’s 48 million uninsured.
"The problems don’t stop at the technical failures of a website," Representative Sam Johnson, a Texas Republican, told Tavenner at the hearing today. "The real problem stems from the colossal failure to deliver what this law promised the American people."
--Michael C. Bender, with assistance from Alex Nussbaum in New York. Editors: Steve Geimann, Jodi Schneider
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