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Preempting a House vote on Obamacare that would allow Americans to keep their current health insurance plans, President Barack Obama on Thursday announced a new administration policy to allow most people keep their current plans. But the new policy will also require insurance companies to inform customers they might have a better deal from the Affordable Care Act exchanges.
President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about his signature health care law, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, at the White House. Bowing to pressure, Obama intends to permit continued sale of individual insurance plans that have been canceled because they failed to meet coverage standards under the health care law. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
"With respect to the pledge I made that if you like your plan you can keep it, I think -- you know, and I've said in interviews -- that there is no doubt that the way I put that forward unequivocally ended up not being accurate," Obama said. "It was not because of my intention not to deliver on that commitment and that promise. We put a grandfather clause into the law but it was insufficient."
The administration initiative, a one-year fix, will allow the 2013 plans to be grandfathered in, but with two caveats, according to White House senior officials.
The first caveat requires insurance companies to inform consumers of what their plans do not include. This would include whether existing plans don't cover things such as maternity care or contain annual or lifetime limits. The second requires the insurance companies to inform consumers what they could get on the Obamacare marketplace, that they could qualify for tax credits or qualify for Medicaid.
The policy will still be at the discretion of the insurance companies whether to restart plans that have already been canceled as a result of the health care law. White House officials said they reserve the right to take another look at the matter in a year. Further, it will be up to state insurance officials whether to allow plans to be sold in their state that do not comply with Obamacare.
"Now, this fix won't solve every problem for every person, but it's going to help a lot of people. Doing more will require work with Congress,” Obama said.
This is consistent with the administration's theme of characterizing most of the existing plans on the individual market “substandard,” compared to the plans that are being offered on the health care exchange.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Obama's solution was not a solution.
“The president has absolutely no credibility on his promise,” Boehner said in a statement. “True to form, it appears this is little more than a political response designed to shift blame rather than solve the problem. This problem cannot be papered over by another ream of Washington regulations. Americans losing their coverage because of the president’s health care law need clear, unambiguous legislation that guarantees the plan they have and like will still be allowed.”
Looking ahead to 2014, Obama said, “our failure to roll out the ACA smoothly has put a burden on Democrats,” but he defended the law, saying only the rollout was problematic.
“There have been times where I thought we were -- got, you know, slapped around a little bit unjustly. This one's deserved, all right? It's on us.”
Obama pledged on at least 36 occasions – 10 of those times after signing the Affordable Care Act into law – that anyone who liked their current health insurance plan could keep it. That turned out not to be the case as millions of people have gotten or are getting cancellations letters for their insurance as a result of Obamacare regulations.
After first trying to explain that he didn't mean precisely what he said, Obama was called out by non-partisan fact checkers. He gave a partial apology last week during an interview with NBC News for misleading the American people on the matter.
A Quinnipiac University poll found that 52 percent of the public does not believe Obama is honest and trustworthy, the lowest rating in his presidency. This comes as most polls show his job approval rating at or below 40 percent.
Obama was asked about his falling approval among the American people.
“I think it's legitimate for them to expect me to have to win back some credibility on this health care law in particular and on a whole range of these issues in general,” Obama said. “And, you know, that's on me. I mean, we fumbled the rollout on this health care law. There are a whole bunch of things about it that are working really well which people didn't notice.”
But Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus questioned the constitutionality the administration's unilateral action.
“There can be no question now that ObamaCare is broken,” Priebus said in a statement. “The President seems to believe that he can rewrite the law whenever it’s politically expedient, but our Constitution says otherwise. I'd encourage the President to listen to frustrated Americans who are telling him that ObamaCare needs to be repealed and replaced with conservative solutions that will actually lower costs and fix the mess he has created.”Obama was asked about his falling approval among the American people.
Obama called the pending House legislation a "brazen attempt" to do away with the Affordable Care Act and return to a "broken system."
The House was set to vote Friday on a proposal supporters said would keep the president's promise by allowing all Americans to keep their existing insurance plan. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The bill, like similar Senate legislation, appeared likely to receive substantial support from Democrats if Obama did not present his own plan.
White House officials said the Upton bill would allow 2013 policies, or pre-Obamacare marketplace plans – to be sold in 2014. This, officials said, would undermine the entire health care law.