WASHINGTON D.C. – Six weeks after the rollout of the troubled federal health care website, President Barack Obama acknowledged Americans’ frustrations and announced a series of changes aimed at fixing the program.
Seemingly frustrated himself, the president said during a White House press conference last week that Americans who have been kicked off of their current plans because of health care law requirements will be allowed to re-enroll. They’ll also be allowed to keep those policies through 2014.
He also addressed problems on the Healthcare.gov website that have prevented more people from signing up for coverage through the new exchanges.
“The rollout has been rough so far; we have to ask ourselves why we didn’t see these problems coming,” Obama said during a nearly hour-long, live telecasts news conference Nov. 14.
In six weeks of existence, more than 100,000 Americans have enrolled in the program and 1.5 million Americans have completed an application, according to the White House. The president conceded that number would be higher if the website had been working properly from the start.
“I was not informed directly about the website,” Obama said, adding that his administration would not have put the website up if he knew it wasn’t going to work.
Obama said three fixes should allow Americans to keep their plans, a promise he made in his push for the Affordable Care Act before its enactment.
Those fixes allow for:
- An extended grandfather clause to include Americans who already had individual health care plans but may have changed them after the Affordable Care Act became law.
- Health insurers to extend such plans through 2014.
- Americans to choose to re-enroll into plans they had, if they were cancelled as a consequence of requirements in the new law.
Dr. Keith Kantor, a former health care advisor for the U.S. House, said private companies will re-enroll dropped policy holders if they think it’s “worth it.” The process requires extra paperwork which means additional cost. Kantor believes some policies may not be reinstated.
Young and healthy Americans could end up picking reinstated policies through private insurers because they will be cheaper than the federal exchange, Kantor said. That could push premiums on Healthcare.gov higher since those plans could wind up with a larger share of older policy-holders.
When the president was asked whether repairs to the health care website would be made by the Nov. 30 goal, he said positive changes will be noticeable by then, but that “improvements will still need to be made” after the deadline.
“I think it is not possible for 100 percent of the people, 100 percent of the time, to have a perfectly seamless, smooth experience,” Obama said.