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White House takes on coverage loss stories

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The Obama administration says media reports about consumers losing “plans they like” are giving an incomplete picture of what’s really happening.

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said today during a press briefing that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will have no effect on the uninsured, and no effect on the ability of consumers to keep Medicare coverage, Medicaid coverage, employer-sponsored coverage or Veterans benefits.

“So, what we’re talking about here is the 5 percent in the country who currently purchase insurance on the individual market,” Carney said, according to a transcript of his remarks.

The individual market “has been like the Wild West,” Carney said. 

Before PPACA came along, he said, individual carriers in many states could jack up premiums, change plans or eliminate plans at will.

Consumers can still keep “grandfathered” individual policies that have remained largely unchanged since PPACA was enacted, even if those grandfathered policies fail to meet PPACA standards, Carney said.

But, in many cases, insurers have changed the plans too much for the plans to qualify for grandfather status, Carney said.

Carney said many of the people who bought cheap policies with skimpy benefits will find that they qualify for PPACA subsidies, and that they can use the subsidies to buy better coverage through the exchange system for a lower price.

One press report featured a Florida woman who was afraid of losing her non-grandfathered plan. 

“What the report didn’t say is that her plan doesn’t cover her for hospital visits,” Carney said. “She goes to the hospital, she goes bankrupt. That’s not quality insurance coverage.”

Although consumers can keep individual policies with grandfather status, the government has no ability to force insurers to continue to offer those plans, and, in some cases, insurers prefer to cover customers with new policies that do meet the PPACA coverage standards, Carney said.

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