Carney hints at Obamacare changes to offset plan cancellations

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama is considering regulatory help for people whose insurance has been canceled, following a statement by former President Bill Clinton urging the insurance be restored.

“The president has tasked his team with looking at a range of options as he said to make sure that nobody is put in a position where there plans have been canceled and they can’t afford a better plan,” Carney said Tuesday.

In an interview released Nov. 12, Clinton said people should be allowed to keep their current insurance programs past January, principally because Obama promised they could keep their insurance. “I personally believe, even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got,” said Clinton in an interview.

At least three million Americans’ individually-purchased insurance has been canceled by Obamacare, so far.

“For details of what is under consideration, we haven’t announced any potential fixes,” Carney said. He declined to provide further details, “until [Obama] has chosen which option to pursue.”

However, he suggested that Obama could let people sign up early for 2014 insurance under pre-Obamacare rules, and that state regulators have some leeway to delay federal mandates.

He also said that federal regulators have the legal authority to allow some people to keep buying pre-Obamacare insurance, and that Obama wants to reduce the cost of buying Obamacare-compliant insurance.

However, Obama’s suggestion that he would change the rules creates new problems for his Obamacare network.

That’s because Obama’s suggestion of a new regulatory benefit gives younger and healthier people another incentive to delay before signing up for Obamacare.

But any delay could be lethal to Obamacare. That’s because the premiums paid by younger and healthier people are vital to the Obamacare network, because they fund subsidized health care for older people, sicker people and for poor African-Americans and Latinos.

Carney also offered vague reassurances to the millions of voters who are losing their insurance, whom he dubbed “the five percent.”

“More than half will qualify for subsidies, some will qualify for Medicaid,” he said.

Carney’s responses came after Clinton urged Obama to discard a core element of his Obamacare network — the requirement that people must buy government-designed insurance.

More than 30 times from 2009 to 2012, Obama told audiences that his Obamacare network would not impact their insurance. “We will keep this promise to the American people … if you like your health-care plan, you will be able to keep your health-care plan, period,” Obama said June 23, 2009.

On Nov. 7, he offered a grudging and partial apology, but the political damage will likely grow.

Follow Neil on Twitter