President Obama is weighing fixes to his health care law that would offer relief at Americans who face the prospect of finding new coverage and possibly paying higher premiums after being dropped by their insurers.
"For the small percentage of those whose plans may change, the president has directed his team to look at the administrative fixes that would help this group," an administration official told the Washington Examiner.
One solution reportedly under consideration would allow more individuals to take advantage of tax subsidies to help pay for plans offered on the new federal insurance exchange, the Huffington Post reported Friday, citing an anonymous administration official.
Changes to the law are aimed at relieving some of the “sticker shock” that millions of Americans are experiencing after losing their coverage during the rollout of Obamacare’s insurance exchanges. Many are now finding only higher-cost plans as alternatives.
Some insurance companies have terminated plans that individuals purchase directly from them instead of through their employers because they didn't meet Obamacare's requirements for broader benefits.
The cancellations have undermined Obama's oft-repeated promise when selling the law and running for re-election that Americans could keep their plan if they liked it. While the White House has said those affected are only a slice — 5 percent — of Americans who hold insurance plans, reports have estimated that figure could be at least 3.5 million.
The president apologized Thursday night to those who were dropped by their insurance companies because of the Affordable Care Act's higher requirements and pledged to do everything he can to find ways to help those affected.
“We've got to work hard to make sure that – they know – we hear them and that we're going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this,” Obama told NBC News' Chuck Todd in an interview at the White House. He added that the White House was already looking at a “range of options” to fix the law after it's rocky roll-out.
Republicans immediately seized on the new reports of a “fix” and expressed deep skepticism that there is anything the administration can do to keep Obama’s promise that Americans could keep the plans they like.
“The president was well aware that he was misleading the country when he promised Americans they could keep the plan they like under Obamacare,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “So, he doesn’t have a lot of credibility when he now says he’s looking for a solution.”
Buck said the GOP is “highly skeptical there is anything the president can do administratively to keep his pledge that would be both legal and effective.” He said Obama should work with Congress and support bipartisan legislation that fulfills his promise and “allows insurance companies to continue offering the plans that so many Americans like and can afford.”
Republicans and several vulnerable Democrats, including Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., have authored bills that would lift the more stringent Obamacare requirements for those insurance plans in question and would allow Americans who had insurance plans they like to keep them -- even if they've already received cancellation notices.
Most of the termination letters have said the plans would be cancelled as of Jan. 1, leaving some time for Congress or the administration to act to stop insurers from dropping consumers or find an alternate solution.
Vulnerable Democrats upset at the problematic Obamacare enrollment roll-out are pressuring the White House to find a solution or delay the law.