Carney: People Can't Keep Same Health Plan That Doesn't Meet "Minimum Standards"


ED HENRY: Beyond the website, the president, when he was trying to get the law passed, repeatedly said if you currently have health insurance, you will be able to keep your plan. This morning, David Axelrod was pressed on that point and said, the majority, the vast majority will get to keep their plans. He no longer works at the White House. From that podium, will you admit that what the president said, 'if you have a plan, you'll get to keep it,' that that was not true.

JAY CARNEY: Well, let's just be clear. What the president said and what everybody said all along is that there is going to be changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act to create minimum standards of coverage, minimum services every insurance provider has to provide. So that an individual shopping for insurance, when he or she purchases that insurance knows that maternity care is covered, that preventive services are covered, that mental health services are covered, that the insurance policy you buy doesn't have an annual limit or a lifetime limit, that there are out of pocket expenses capped at a maximum level, both annually and for a lifetime.

So, it's true that there are existing healthcare plans on the individual market that don't meet those minimum standards and therefore do not qualify for the Affordable Care Act. There are some that can be grandfathered, if people want to keep insurance that is substandard. But what is also true, Americans who have insurance on the existing individual market will now have numerous options available to them and 6 out of 10 will pay less than $100 per month in premiums for better insurance.

It's not even an apples and apples comparison. This is qualitatively better insurance coverage than what was available in many cases to Americans around the country. In many areas where the insurance market was so lightly regulated you often didn't know what you were getting. So you could sign an insurance policy, get that plan, pay a lot of up front money, premiums, out-of-pocket expenses, and then find out that because of the fine print, it does not cover the actual condition that you have. That will no longer be the case. So, I get that, you know, what the effort here is, but the fact is --

HENRY: But the president said one thing and you are admitting that that's not going to be the case. That not everyone is going to keep their plan. That they will admiringly wind up with probably better insurance in the long run. So, they may be healthier, that should be said. But the president sold it as if you have a plan, you will get to keep it and that's not true.

CARNEY: Ed, I appreciate what you're trying to do. Eighty-plus percent of the American people already get insurance through their employer, through Medicare or through Medicaid. They don't have to worry about or change anythingThose remaining individuals who do not have insurance at all now will have it available to them through, or don't have insurance at all and get it through the individual market will now have it available to them through expanded Medicaid services in those states that have accepted the expanded Medicaid program, as well as through the health care marketplaces. And it is correct, I take your point, it is correct that substandard plans that don't provide minimum services that have a lot of fine print that leaves consumers in the lurch often because of annual caps, or lifetime caps, or carve outs for some preexisting conditions, those are no longer allowed because the Affordable Care Act is built on the premise that health care is not a privilege, it is a right and there should be a minimum standard of plans available to Americans around the country.

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