Report: White House exerting ‘massive pressure’ on insurance companies to keep quiet

Katie McHugh Associate Editor
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The White House is pressuring insurance companies not to speak publicly about Obama administration policies that could eliminate the existing health insurance plans of millions of Americans.

The administration made “clarifications” to the 2010 Affordable Care Act after it was passed that have already wiped out hundreds of thousands of existing health plans.

“Basically, if you speak out, if you’re quoted, you’re going to get a call from the White House, pressure to be quiet,” said CNN investigative reporter Drew Griffin on Anderson Cooper 360 Wednesday night. Insurance companies executives, Griffin said, ask heads of consulting firms not to criticize the Obamacare rollout debacle publicly.

“They feel defenseless before the White House P.R. team,” Griffin said. “The sources said they fear White House retribution.”

Prior to the Obamacare rollout, insurance companies issued warnings to the White House about the possibility of mass cancellations, which the administration ignored.

Although the mass cancelations are an embarrassment to insurance companies, they are more concerned about losing their biggest customer — the federal government.

“Executives are willing to listen to the White House, because right now, it’s the government that’s the biggest customers of these insurance companies,” Griffin said. “Government-backed plans accounted for about 48 percent of healthcare policies last year, Anderson — a number that’s expected to grow this year, and years to come.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney, however, waved off the allegations.

“That accusation is preposterous and inaccurate,” Carney said. “Plus, it ignores the fact that every day, insurance companies are out talking about the law, in large part because they are trying to reach new customers who will now have new, affordable insurance options available from providers through the new marketplaces.”

Carney’s statement echoed similar remarks Obama made during a Wednesday speech, blaming “bad apple insurers” who tried to rip off customers for the cancelled plans.

The law itself provided protections for healthcare policies in effect on March 23, 2010 onwards with “grandfather” clauses, permitting customers to keep them even if they did not adhere to the new requirements. But the Health and Human Services department stripped away those provisions, writing regulations that eliminated health care plans whose copays, deductibles or benefits changed.

HHS’s unilateral rewrite will eliminate the health insurance plans of up to ten million Americans, NBC News reports. Despite insistent, endlessly repeated assurances from Obama and a supporting cast of Democrats, from before the law’s passage to the 2012 presidential election to the present, the Obama administration knew that millions of healthcare plans would vanish under its regulations. (RELATED: Health insurance cancellation notices soar above Obamacare enrollment rates)

The online exchanges’ severe systemic flaws have inflamed tensions between the insurance industry and the administration. A group of major insurance executives met with senior White House officials — including senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius — last Wednesday in a closed-door meeting, after the rollout of HealthCare.gov demonstrated all the graceful coordination of a multiple-car pileup. (RELATED: Bad news: Obamacare navigator program is dependent upon a functioning HealthCare.gov website)

The White House may have increased pressure on insurance companies to keep them operating within the federal exchanges. The companies must back out of the exchanges before Oct. 31 or be locked into them. according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services contract governing the relationship between the companies and the government.

QHP CMS Agreement for 2014-1 Copy by Tim Cavanaugh

The companies issuing new, Obamacare-approved plans are free to terminate the agreement if the CMS does not propose a fix and remedy the companies’ complaints within 60 days — and with many Americans unable to purchase plans through HealthCare.gov, insurance companies may get cold feet and exit the exchanges en masse.

Combined with the grave possibility that healthy Americans, deterred by the broken exchange website, could fail to enroll at the rates needed to subsidize coverage for the sick and ailing, the health insurance industry, a full 1/6th of the economy, could quickly tumble into a death spiral.

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