Obama threatens to veto House bill

McClatchy Washington BureauNovember 15, 2013 

President Barack Obama said he would veto the House bill if it lands on at his desk because offering “substandard policies” to new customers would undermine the basic premise of the law that requires quality, affordable health care to all Americans regardless of pre-existing conditions.

“The problem with the Upton bill and why we will -- the president will veto it if it ever gets to his desk, is because it would basically.. it would basically go back to, in that market, the world that existed before,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “Even as we have these legitimate discussions about the problems with the roll out of the Affordable Care Act, it's not a world that most people want us to remain living in.”

Obama met with insurance industry executives Friday afternoon behind closed doors to assure them that he could fix his new health care law that has been fraught with problems for weeks. Those who were expected to attend are Aetna Chief Executive Officer Mark Bertolini; Florida Blue chief executive Patrick Geraghty; Humana CEO Bruce Brussard; Patricia Hemingway, chief executive of Health Care Service Corp. Scott Serota, president and chief executive officer of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

“It is absolutely the case that we have been in consultation with and have had numerous meetings with insurance companies over the course of the last several years with the drafting and passing and implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Those consultations continue,” Carney said. “We'll talk about ways we can work together to help people enroll through the marketplace and efforts we can make to minimize disruption for consumers as they transition to new coverage.”

The meeting at the White House comes a day after Obama, under fire for breaking a promise to Americans that they could keep their insurance plans, said he would let companies sell existing policies next year even if they do not meet the minimum standards set by the law.

“We do disagree with the assertion that this is not something that cannot be dealt with,” he said. “It’s a way of smoothing the transition. It's a way of making an adjustment in response to the problems we saw with the cancellation notices…And, you know, the president made clear that he feels like a fix was necessary. So he looks forward to the implementation of this, looks forward to working with Congress as on any sincere effort, good faith effort to make improvements to the Affordable Care Act as we implement it.”

On Thursday, Obama announced that he’d allow – but not require – insurance companies to extend existing policies for a year as long as they notified customers that their benefits might be diminished with their current plans and that alternative policies might be available to them.

Insurance companies already have devised plans for next year, received the necessary approval from states and begun to sell policies. They aren’t required to continue to offer their existing policies and state insurance commissioners aren’t required to approve those 2013 plans.

Already, insurance commissioners in at least three states – Washington, Arkansas and Vermont – have announced that they will not extend plans. Four others – Kentucky, Florida, California and Ohio – have announced that they will. “Obviously, because we have a system where state insurance commissioners have great authority over the markets in their states, this is something that insurance companies and insurance commissioners will make the ultimate decision on in terms of offering to extend the renewal period or to offer to renew policies in the individual market where cancellation notices might have gone out,” Carney said.

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