By Mike Lillis - 10/30/13 02:11 PM EDT
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pushed back hard Wednesday against those hammering ObamaCare for forcing some patients out of their current insurance plans.
The House minority leader said the number of patients who will have to change plans under the law is small, and they will ultimately benefit by moving into new plans with better coverage.
"These are part of the patients' bill of rights, which is a vast improvement over other plans."
Pelosi said the sharp rise in medical costs, combined with the transient nature of the individual insurance market, would eventually have forced people out of their individual plans — ObamaCare or not.
"No matter what people say about whether they like their plan or not, their plan was not going to be their plan," she said. "Everybody's premiums were going up."
Pelosi noted that only about 5 percent of Americans are enrolled in the individual plans most likely to fall short of ObamaCare's minimum benefit requirements. And within that group, she added, many patients would be able to keep their existing coverage because the new rules apply only to plans established or altered after the law was enacted.
"If you were in a plan in 2010 when the president said, 'If you're in a plan and you like your plan, you can keep your plan,' you can [keep your plan]," Pelosi said. "If you've enrolled since then, you'll get a conversion letter."
The message mirrors that delivered Wednesday by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who told members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that the law has been clear all along.
“If a person had a policy in place in March 2010, liked that plan, and the insurance company made no changes to disadvantage the consumer, those policies are in place. You keep your plan if you like it, and that goes on,” Sebelius testified.
In the run-up to the 2010 passage of his signature healthcare law, President Obama had said repeatedly that those who like their plans could keep them.
Yet as the deadline for the individual mandate gets closer, thousands of people have reportedly received notices that their current plans don't meet the requirements of the healthcare law, and they'll have to switch to more robust coverage.
Republicans have jumped at the news, accusing the Democrats of breaking their promises and citing the shift in coverage as evidence that the underlying healthcare law is unworkable.
"Democrats knew that Americans would lose their healthcare, yet they continued to make false promises about ObamaCare to voters," the National Republican Senatorial Committee said Wednesday in an email blast.
On Tuesday, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip, rejected the notion that Democrats misled the public when they pitched the Affordable Care Act. But the messaging, he acknowledged, "was not precise enough."
"Clearly, it should have been caveated with, 'Assuming you have a policy that, in fact, does do what the bill is designed to do,' " Hoyer said.