Millions of people in the US receive health insurance cover for the first time as ObamaCare healthcare reforms – Affordable Act Care – come into effect as of 1st of January 2014.
President Barack Obama’s reforms are part of his aim to ensure affordable healthcare is available to everyone.
But the policy is controversial and the roll-out of the new system has been beset with problems.
Some religious-affiliated groups won a last-minute reprieve from being forced to provide birth control cover.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor temporally blocked the government from forcing such groups to offer health insurance that would include contraception.
Sonia Sotomayor acted at the request of a group of Catholic nuns in Colorado, the Little Sisters of the Poor, who had earlier lost their request for a preliminary injunction at an appeals court in Denver.
They had argued that the ruling conflicted with the Catholic Church’s stance against the use of contraceptives.
Millions of Americans will receive health insurance cover for the first time as ObamaCare comes into effect
Under the Affordable Care Act, it is now compulsory for people to have health cover – either provided for by their employer or by buying one of the private health plans now on offer.
Those who cannot afford it will get help, but those without any insurance will be fined.
As of 1st of January 2014, health insurance companies are also no longer able to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
More than 2.1 million people have enrolled so far for private health plans – short of the government’s original target.
But the phased roll-out of the new law has suffered a number of difficulties.
The Healthcare.gov website offering the new health plans was plagued with technical glitches when it was launched in October. There were long sign-in wait times, log-in difficulties, insurance account creation problems, slow page loads and outages.
Insurance companies have also announced the cancellation of millions of policies, saying they did not meet the law’s minimum requirements.
This came despite President Barack Obama’s promise that people would not be forced to move from plans they were happy with.
Barack Obama’s approval ratings fell in the wake of the problems, but the White House says things have been fixed.
President Barack Obama has announced a one-year reprieve for millions of Americans facing cancellation of their health insurance policies under his embattled healthcare law.
The president said insurers could extend individually purchased plans that would otherwise be cancelled.
While pushing for the law’s passage, Barack Obama vowed people with individual plans who liked their policies could keep them.
“We fumbled the rollout on this healthcare law,” he said.
In recent weeks insurance companies have sent letters to their customers announcing the cancellation of coverage that does not meet the Affordable Care Act’s strict new requirements for policies sold on the individual private market.
The law included a provision that would allow individual plans that did not meet the standard to continue as long as they were created before 2010. But many firms did not maintain these plans.
While Barack Obama said on Thursday that those people could keep their old plans, he encouraged them to shop around for better, more cost-effective coverage.
Under the change announced on Thursday, insurance companies that extend those plans will be required to inform customers of which medical care they do not cover, and inform them that other insurance options offering more coverage may be available.
Barack Obama also said he expected to have to “win back” credibility and the “confidence” of the American people in the wake of ongoing issues with the health law, his signature domestic policy initiative.
Barack Obama has announced a one-year reprieve for millions of Americans facing cancellation of their health insurance policies under his embattled healthcare law
“I completely get how upsetting this can be for many Americans,” Barack Obama said, acknowledging that he had made assurances that anyone who wanted to keep their plans would be able to.
“To those Americans: I hear you loud and clear.”
It is unclear how many will be affected by the fix. White House officials told Reuters that state insurance commissioners would have to allow it to go ahead and it would be up to insurance firms to renew the plans.
Ahead of Barack Obama’s announcement, Republican House Speaker John Boehner insisted it was time to “scrap this law once and for all”.
“You can’t fix this government-run health care plan called ObamaCare,” John Boehner said of the law, which relies mostly on health insurance plans offered by private, for-profit companies.
“It’s just not fixable.”
At the White House briefing room, Barack Obama acknowledged the flaws with the law’s rollout had put a “burden” on his fellow Democrats.
The American public has remained divided over the law since its 2010 passage and subsequent rollout. Republicans, who were unanimously opposed to the law and have tried to undermine it at every turn, have sought political advantage in every reported problem with the law.
The law, known to both sides as “ObamaCare”, is certain to be an issue in the 2014 mid-term elections.
Before Barack Obama announced the change, the White House had said it was against proposals that would allow insurers to continue selling medical coverage that did not offer the level of benefits required under the law.
“The old individual market was not working well,” Barack Obama said on Thursday.
“And it’s important that we don’t pretend that somehow that’s a place worth going back to.”
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is still struggling to fix ongoing glitches with the healthcare.gov website, established by the law to enable consumers who do not get health insurance from their employers or from the government to shop for private plans.
Among other issues, the site has been plagued by long wait times to sign up for an insurance plan and serious flaws on the back end where customers’ data are processed and sent to insurance companies.
The problems have proven so severe that fewer than 27,000 people in 36 US states have successfully enrolled in healthcare programs on the site since it launched on October 1st.
In comparison, about 79,000 enrolled using websites run by states.