Obama to meet with insurers Friday on Obamacare fix

Reuters

By Mark Felsenthal

WASHINGTON, Nov 15 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama willmeet with insurance industry executives on Friday to discuss hisplan to help those seeing their current health plans canceledbecause of his signature healthcare law, a White House officialsaid.

The meeting comes a day after the president, under fire forthe botched rollout of his top domestic policy achievement, saidhealth insurers could extend by at least one year policies dueto be canceled because they do not comply with the new minimumrequirements under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, widely known asObamacare.

The move was designed to pre-empt a push for morefar-reaching changes in Congress, where the House ofRepresentatives was to vote on Friday on a Republican bill toallow insurers to offer plans not compliant with the new law.

House Democrats said the bill would undermine the market anddrive premiums up by allowing insurers to offer substandardplans to new customers, and the White House said Obama wouldveto it. Democrats said they would offer their own alternative.

The health law has stumbled in its early phases, firstbecause the website designed to sign up consumers malfunctioned,and then because people complained their existing insurancepolicies were being canceled - something Obama had promisedwould not happen.

Under pressure from his fellow Democrats, Obama on Thursdayacknowledged missteps and said health insurers could extend byat least a year policies that do not meet the new law's higherstandards of benefits and other requirements.

But insurers and state regulators said Obama's fix willcreate new problems for the industry and could lead to anincrease in premiums.

The meeting with insurers, tentatively scheduled for Fridayafternoon, was put together after Obama spoke about his proposedchanges on Thursday, according to sources.

Insurers who said they would attend include Aetna ChiefExecutive Officer Mark Bertolini; Patrick Geraghty, chiefexecutive of Florida Blue; Humana CEO Bruce Brussard andPatricia Hemingway, chief executive of Health Care Service Corp.Scott Serota, president and chief executive officer of the BlueCross Blue Shield Association, will also attend.

Democratic lawmakers worried the Obamacare problems couldthreaten their re-election bids.

In the Senate, Democrat Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who hasintroduced legislation to allow Americans to keep their existinghealth insurance plans, described Obama's announcement as a goodfirst step but "we'll probably need legislation to make itstick."

The Oct. 1 rollout of the new health law has been beset bytechnical glitches with the federal online insurance website,HealthCare.gov. Obama has promised to have the websitefunctioning smoothly for most people by the end of the month. (Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editingby Eric Beech)

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