President Obama will meet Friday with insurance industry executives, many of whom are concerned that his proposal to allow insurers to let Americans keep their individual health care plans temporarily could disrupt the market and lead to higher premiums.
"Today CEOs from across the health insurance industry will be meeting with President Obama and senior administration officials to discuss ways to work together to help people enroll through the [federal health insurance] marketplace and efforts to minimize disruption for consumers as they transition to new coverage," wrote a senior administration official in an e-mail, asking not to be identified because the meeting had yet to take place.
Senior White House officials, including Obama's chief of staff, Denis McDonough, have met twice with insurance industry executives since the Oct. 1 launch of the federal marketplace to discuss its problematic rollout, and the administration consulted with some insurance companies on the president's proposal before he announced it Thursday. But the sudden decision to convene a meeting between the president and health care chief executives highlights both the level of anxiety within the insurance industry about the administration's policy fix and the many questions that remain about how it will be carried out.
The Associate Press first reported the meeting.
Obama said Thursday that insurance companies could continue for another year to offer health plans sold to individuals and small businesses that do not meet requirements under the new law, which set minimum standards for the benefits that policies must cover.
After the president's announcement, insurers said that although they appreciate Obama’s effort to address consumer concerns, they are worried that the move could distort the risk pool in the new state and federal health insurance marketplaces. That’s because individual policies tend to be significantly more expensive than group insurance, except for customers who are young, healthy and use little medical care — the very people whom federal officials are counting on to join the new exchanges.
“Changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers,” said Karen Ignagni, president and chief executive of America’s Health Insurance Plans. “If now fewer younger and healthier people choose to purchase coverage in the exchange, premiums will increase, and there will be fewer choices for consumers.”
The American Academy of Actuaries was among the groups that immediately warned of negative effects if insurers were to keep offering those previous plans. The White House’s approach is “threatening the viability” of the new insurance marketplaces, said Corri Uccello, the academy’s senior health fellow.