UPDATE 1-Obama administration pushes back over cancelled health plans

Tue Nov 5, 2013 4:40pm EST
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By David Morgan and Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON Nov 5 (Reuters) - The Obama administration, under pressure over the botched opening of its healthcare website, announced new efforts on Tuesday to appease hundreds of thousands of people whose coverage is being cancelled as insurers prepare for reforms in 2014.

Officials said many cancellation victims hear only about costly replacement plans from their insurers and not about options available through new online healthcare marketplaces that can offer plans with lower, subsidized premiums. To that end, the administration is seeking to broaden the message consumers receive from insurers and the government.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough urged a group of insurance executives to tell consumers in cancellation notices that they could qualify for premium tax credits through the marketplaces that have been set up in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

"He's saying that we all need to do the best we can in getting information that consumers need," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

In a sign that things are already changing for people whose policies have been cancelled, California officials announced that a major insurer - Blue Shield of California Life and Health Insurance Co - has agreed to allow 115,000 state consumers who had been notified of cancellations would be able to keep their lower priced policies through the first quarter of next year.

Under the health insurance program known as Obamacare, it is mandatory for everyone to have health insurance or pay a fine. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010 and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

Republicans have opposed the program, President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy achievement, as an unwarranted expansion of the federal government.   Continued...