NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Americans may be able to keep their individual insurance plans for one more year, under a fix offered by President Obama on Thursday to address a controversial provision of the Affordable Care Act.
The deal is meant to mollify millions of people enraged after their insurers canceled policies that do not meet Obamacare requirements.
The uproar has ensnared the White House for weeks, shining a spotlight on Obama’s previous promise that people who liked their insurance plans can keep them.
“This fix won’t solve every problem for every person,” but it will help many, the president said at the White House. “We are going to do everything we can to help Americans who’ve received these cancellation notices.”
But the fix, as reported earlier by CNN’s Dana Bash, puts the onus of the renewals outside the president’s control: The administration is not requiring insurers or state insurance commissioners to extend the existing plans, but instead is letting them offer an additional year of coverage.
Also, insurers must notify policyholders of the difference in benefits between their policies and the Obamacare plans available on the insurance exchanges. And the companies must inform people that additional policies are available on the exchanges and that subsidies may be available to those who qualify.
How many people are allowed to extend, however, remains to be seen.
Since insurance is regulated at the state level, it remains up to the commissioners to permit the extensions and the companies to do so. The president noted that not all commissioners may agree to extensions. At least four states — California, Idaho, Virginia and Kentucky — are requiring all individual plans adhere to Obamacare rules.
Insurance industry sources say the fix creates a bigger mess with no clarity how it will be followed from state to state.
Obama also said the extensions allow him to say to people that the president is not “getting in the way” of their shopping on the individual market they used to have.
In announcing the changes Thursday, Obama apologized for the rough start to enrollment in the federal and state exchanges. The websites have been marred by major technological problems that have stymied many visitors from registering accounts, determining whether they are eligible for subsidies and picking insurance plans.
“We fumbled the roll out on this health care law,” he said.
Only 106,185 people signed up for insurance in the first month, with fewer than 27,000 of them going through the federal healthcare.gov site, which is handling enrollment for 36 states. And the site is still far from fully operational, leaving tech experts racing to get it working by month’s end, as the administration promised.
Obama said the website healthcare.gov will see “marked and noticeable” improvement.
Americans have until March 31 for sign up for a plan, but people must select and pay for a plan by Dec. 15 for coverage to start Jan. 1.