Amid the continued rocky rollout of the new Obamacare marketplaces, President Obama on Wednesday is meeting with state regulators who have a key role to play in implementing the health law.
Mr. Obama's meeting with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners comes one week after he announced an administrative policy change that would let insurers extend existing insurance plans for another year. The move was designed to address the fact that millions of Americans are being dropped from insurance plans that no longer meet Obamacare coverage standards.
However, neither insurers nor state regulators have to go along with the move. Soon after Mr. Obama announced the policy change, some insurers and state regulators criticized the idea, pointing out that it could destabilize the new Obamacare marketplaces. According to the Wall Street Journal, about half of the nation's state insurance commissioners have already announced their stance on the policy change, with most supporting the idea. State insurance commissioners that are rejecting the move typically come from states that are running their own Obamacare websites, the Journal noted.
Since the new Obamacare marketplaces launched on Oct. 1, the state-run Obamacare websites have generally run more smoothly than HealthCare.gov, the federally-run site that services 36 states.
The administration has promised to have HealthCare.gov running smoothly for the "vast majority" of users by Nov. 30, but Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday played down the significance of that deadline.
"The 30th of November is not a magic go, no go date," she told The Associated Press. "It is a work of constant improvement. We have some very specific things we know we need to complete by the 30th and that punch list is getting knocked out every week."
Sebelius sounded slightly less optimistic than she did on Oct. 30 when she told Congress the administration would have "an optimally functioning website" by the end of November.
The secretary was in Florida Tuesday, where she was visiting with community leaders in Miami and Orlando who are helping people enroll in Obamacare. At one stop, the AP reported, the website stalled while community leaders attempted to help someone enroll, as Sebelius looked on.new CBS News poll shows less than a third of the country approves of the Affordable Care Act. Just seven percent of Americans think the law is working well and should be kept in place as it is. Far more, 48 percent, think there are some good things in the law, but changes are needed to make it work better, and another 43 percent think the law needs to be repealed entirely.
As the problems persist, conservatives are seizing the opportunity to attack Mr. Obama and the Democratic party for the botched rollout. Americans for Prosperity, the conservative political advocacy group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, launched a round of television ads on Wednesday attacking vulnerable Democrats up for re-election next year for supporting the health law.
The new wave of advertisements cost $4 million and target Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska; Mary Landrieu, D-La.; and Kay Hagan, D-N.C.; as well as Reps. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla.; Joe Garcia, D-Fla.; and Ron Barber, D-Ariz.
"Some lawmakers who championed ObamaCare are now going through the antics of trying to 'fix' it. But it's all political," AFP President Tim Phillips said in a statement. "The reality is less choice, fewer doctors, higher premiums, and broken promises."
Meanwhile, as some Americans continue to struggle to enroll in Obamacare, members of Congress are getting some special treatment through the process, the New York Times reports.
As they sign up for Obamacare on the Washington, D.C. marketplace, members of Congress have access to a special Blue Cross and Blue Shield website just for them, the Times reported, as well as a "dedicated congressional health insurance plan assistance line."