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Obama to allow insurers to extend canceled policies for 1 year


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President Barack Obama bowed to political pressure over his signature healthcare reform on Thursday, announcing that he would allow insurers to extend policies that have been canceled for one year even if they do not comply with the law.

But insurers immediately raised doubts over how the proposal would work.

The October 1 rollout of the program known as Obamacare has been beset by technical problems with the main website and cancellations of existing policies because they do not meet the higher standards of the 2010 healthcare law known as Obamacare.

Obama said on Thursday that to fix the problem of some health insurance coverage cancellations since online marketplaces opened, insurers could renew those plans for a year.

The move was in response to a tide of anger from Republicans and fellow Democrats that Obama was not fulfilling his frequent promise that people who like their current health plans would be able to keep them under Obamacare.

The fracas has allowed critics to question Obama's credibility and reignited a broad debate about the benefits of the health system overhaul, forcing Obama to give a sweeping apology to Americans on Thursday.

"I think it's legitimate for them to expect me to have to win back some credibility on this healthcare law in particular and on a whole range of these issues in general," Obama said during a press conference.

Several million Americans have received cancellation notices because insurers did not renew policies that were protected because they predated the 2010 law, or because they were made after the law was enacted.

The problem has been compounded by the fact that, the federal website where Americans can shop for new insurance plans, has been plagued by technical difficulties.

But it is unclear whether the fix announced on Thursday will prevent a large number of policies from being canceled or soothe Democrats concerned that the botched rollout has damaged their standing in 2014 re-election fights.

It will be up to state insurance commissioners to allow the Obamacare fix to go ahead, and it will be up to insurers whether to renew plans that have already been canceled.

Two insurance groups questioned Obama's proposed solution.

"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 Ignani, president and chief executive officer of America's Health Insurance Plans, the lobbying arm of the insurance industry.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners said in a statement that it was unclear how Obama's proposal on canceled policies can be put into effect.

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