Carney On Cancelled Healthcare Coverage: "Insurers Basically Threw You Off That Plan," Not Obamacare


QUESTION: Can you explain in just really clear and plain terms the disconnect between what the president said about if you want to keep your plan, you can keep it and what we see people complaining about which is being kicked out of their plan or being told they have to buy a more expensive plan, or just general unhappiness in that segment? Can you explain?

JAY CARNEY: I appreciate the question and I thank you for the opportunity to explain this. And I understand that there's a lot of tension, or attention being focused on it and that it deserves fuller explanation. And I think fuller explanation by us and fuller explanation by everybody reporting on it so that viewers and readers and listeners are getting the full picture about this issue. So let's step back.

If you are one of the 80% of the American people who receive insurance coverage through your employer or through Medicaid or Medicare or the Veterans Administration, this conversation doesn't apply to you. These reports do not apply to you. If you're one of the 15% of the American people who are uninsured entirely right now, this conversation does not apply to you. So, what we're talking about here is the 5% in the country who currently purchase insurance on the individual market. And that market has been like the wild west.

It has been under-regulated, it is this place where Americans have most keenly felt the challenges posed by the insurance system in in this country where, for example, insurers could deny you coverage if you had a pre-existing condition, or they could offer you coverage that in its fine print excluded benefits specifically related to your pre-existing condition. So if you are, if you have hypertension or you're a cancer survivor, they could carve out coverage on those specific issues and then give you a plan that would cover you on other things.

They could also and did routinely change your plan or eliminate it altogether annually. They could throw you off. They could jack up your premiums. They could change your coverage. And one of the issues that the Affordable Care Act was designed to address was the need to provide greater security to those Americans who had no other option but to seek insurance on the individual market. So that's the universe we're talking about, 5% of the population. And I think the it's important to know that, because in some of the coverage of this issue in the last several days, you would think that you were talking about 75% or 80% or 60% of the American population. So there's that.

As the law says and as the president made clear in the statements that you cite, if you had insurance coverage on the individual market when the Affordable Care Act was passed into law and you liked that plan and you wanted to stay on it even though it didn't meet the minimum standards that the Affordable Care Act would bring into place on January 1, 2014, you can keep that coverage. You're grandfathered in. That plan and your association with it are grandfathered in citizen in perpetuity. Not for a year, not for five years, but forever. But what is not the case is if your insurer basically threw you off that plan by telling you after a year or two that it was changing and said here's your new option because your plan has changed, that that new plan is grandfathered in because how could that be? You can't grandfather in a plan in 2010 that didn't come into existence into 2012 or 2011.

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