Obama pledges 'collaborative process' with health insurers at WH meeting

President Obama pledged a "collaborative process" in implementing fixes to his signature healthcare law during a meeting with top insurance executives at the White House on Friday.


"I appreciate all these folks coming in," the president said. "We're going to be soliciting ideas from them. This is going to be a collaborative process. We want to make we get this done so in the years to come, that every American is going to have the kind of affordable healthcare they all deserve."

Afterward, the White House called the meeting “productive.” Both sides emphasized minimizing disruption in the individual insurance market while still offering information about the newly created healthcare exchanges, according to a readout provided by the White House. 

The meeting came after insurance groups expressed outrage with the president's announcement on Thursday to allow the companies to offer existing customers the same health plans they currently have — even if individuals had bought insurance since the passage of ObamaCare, or those policies had been substantially changed.

The move was seen as an attempt to shift the burden for the president’s promise that Americans could keep their plans from the administration to insurers. But the companies warned the administrative solutions could destabilize the market.

“Changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the [healthcare] law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers," said Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, a leading trade group.

“The only reason consumers are getting notices about their current coverage changing is because the Affordable Care Act requires all policies to cover a broad range of benefits that go beyond what many people choose to purchase today,” she added.

Ignagni was in attendance at the meeting, as were White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.

Earlier Friday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president had "accepted an ample amount of responsibility" for his pledge individuals could keep their plans.

But Carney said that the incident had also underscored "the reality of the individual market."

"Insurers have been able to, in that market, to sell you a plan because you're healthy and then when you get sick, during the year that that plan and that contract was in effect, refuse to renew your policy the next year because you now have a pre-existing condition," Carney said.

Still, the spokesman insisted "this is not about blame."

Friday's meeting was the third between the White House and insurance executives in less than a month. 

On Oct. 23, senior administration officials, including McDonough and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, met with 14 executives from the nation's largest insurance companies. 

Following that meeting, the administration and insurers announced they were creating “alpha teams” that will work to address the corrupted enrollment data that is being produced by the ObamaCare website.

On Nov. 5, McDonough again met with executives to ask them to rework the cancellation letters they were sending to consumers who might lose their plans. He asked the companies to better explain to consumers what was happening, and urged them to spell out the benefits and subsidies that will soon be available.

Under the president’s new regulatory changes announced Thursday, insurance companies will now be required to include that information in cancellation notices, as well as highlight where current insurance plans fall short of the minimum standards outlined in ObamaCare.

— This post was updated at 7:00 p.m.