The PJ Tatler

Administration Officials: One-Year Extension 'May Not Be Taken By All Insurance Companies'

Senior White House officials told reporters on a call before President Obama’s announcement of his “administrative fix” that the purpose of the yearlong extension is to educate Americans about the plans they should be getting under the Affordable Care Act.

The administration officials also compared the yearlong reprieve to the discretionary authority under which the White House deferred enforcement against young illegal immigrants.

Speaking on background, the officials said the fix was intended to address the “confusion and challenges” surrounding millions of Americans receiving cancellation notices from their insurance companies.

The option to renew plans for one year is viewed as an “extension of grandfathering principles.”

However, to extend plans insurers will be required to “notify consumers what protections these renewed plans do not include” and “notify consumers that they will have new options on the marketplace that will have better coverage and subsidies.”

It “doesn’t include older, noncompliant plans to be sold to new customers in 2014.”

And if someone has already had their plan canceled? “They have the ability to reach out to those individuals and renew their plans for an additional year,” one of the officials said. “It may not be taken by all insurance companies and commissioners; we wanted to make clear it is an option.”

They added they’ll try to ensure “minimal” effect on people’s premiums in 2015.

The focus will be on “transition” instead of continuing to let consumers have the choice of their current plans. “It’s very important here to think about what this is,” an official said.

One official said the individual small group insurance market should be viewed as a “bridge” to better coverage, saying about half of that market only have an individual plan for a year or less before moving into group coverage.

“We will exercise discretion in terms of enforcement,” the official said, saying to these insurance companies they will not require an immediate upgrade of plans “for this universe of people.”

The administration officials made clear that they still won’t support the GOP fix expected on the floor for a vote Friday, complaining that it would allow people to indefinitely keep their chosen plans and “undermine” Obamacare.

The House Rules Committee has a 3 p.m. meeting today to advance the Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013, sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

Officials said they “still expect that the marketplaces will be robust, but the fix is just for helping people for whom cancellation of their policy is viewed as a burden.”

One characterized it as “a way to help smooth the transition,” adding that they are “optimistic” about continuing to build the marketplace.

Officials said the message should be that when the White House sees Obamacare problems, “we’re going to fix them.”