Democratic Lawmakers Seek to Shift Some of the Blame to Insurance Industry

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 16 2013 5:17 PM

Democratic Lawmakers Seek to Shift Some of the Blame to Insurance Industry

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President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with CEOs from across the health insurance industry at the Roosevelt Room of the White House on November 15, 2013

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Obama may be reluctant to directly criticize the health insurance industry, thinking the best strategy to fix his health care woes is to work alongside the sector. But Democrats are getting ready to fight back, angry that insurance executives have seemingly been able to have it “both ways” by making money out of the new customers because of Obamacare, while also blaming the new law for rising premiums, reports the Hill. Democratic lawmakers say insurance companies are largely to blame for the hundreds of thousands of people who can’t keep their current health plan.

Now that President Obama has said that the White House would let companies continue to offer plans that don’t meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act, Democratic pressure on insurers is set to increase. “What we have to do is have all legislators team up and call upon the insurance industry to honor their side of the bargain because it requires not only the government side but it requires the insurance companies to keep offering the policies and not cancel them on folks,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley.

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It’s hardly that simple though. State regulators across the country spent Friday trying to figure out how they could apply the president’s decision to allow insurers to keep policies through 2014, reports the Washington Post. A few states quickly announced their decisions. Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington have already said they would not allow any changes to the insurance market. While five others—Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, and Texas—have said they will let insurers sell the plans. The rest remain up in the air.

The insurance industry is hardly thrilled about President Obama’s proposal. In a meeting at the White House on Friday, 15 insurance industry representatives expressed concern that the extension could solve one problem while creating another by making it more difficult to get healthy, young people to sign up for health plans, which is considered essential to the law’s success, reports Bloomberg. Advocates for the insurance industry have also warned that “premiums could begin soaring in 2015” if those who were going to be joining Obamacare’s exchanges end up keeping substandard policies, notes Reuters.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.