Obama Says Obamacare Has ‘Real Problems’ Congress Refuses to Fix

COURT OBAMACARE

A demonstrator in support of President Barack Obama's health-care law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), holds up a sign outside the Supreme Court in Washington on June 25, 2015.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
  • Exodus of major insurers and spiraling prices hurt the law
  • Enrollment for 2017 begins a week before Election Day

President Barack Obama said his signature health-care law has “real problems” that have been exacerbated by congressional gridlock and political polarization.

“They’re eminently fixable problems in terms of strengthening the marketplace, improving the subsidies so more folks can get it, making sure everybody has Medicaid who was qualified under the original legislation, doing more on the cost containment,” Obama said in an interview published Sunday in New York Magazine. “But you hit a point where if Congress just is not willing to make any constructive modifications and it’s all political football, then you’re getting a suboptimal solution.”

The Affordable Care Act is under strain after an exodus of major health-insurance companies from government-run marketplaces called exchanges, as well as large rate hikes in many states. Minnesota’s commerce commissioner, Mike Rothman, said on Friday that he would allow insurers selling individual plans in the state to raise their prices by at least 50 percent next year after the near “collapse” of its market for individual coverage.

Many Republican-run states also still refuse to expand Medicaid, the health program for low-income people, as called for under the law.

Trump, Clinton

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has pledged to repeal Obamacare if he wins election in November. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has said she would fix it, and some Republicans in Congress say they’d be willing to work with her to do so.

Last month, Obama met with top executives from more than a dozen health insurers, including Humana Inc. and Cigna Corp., to re-affirm his support for the Affordable Care Act after several companies retreated from the exchanges.

Harken Health Insurance Co., a unit of UnitedHealth Group Inc.,the biggest U.S. health insurer, said last week it would withdraw from the two markets where it was selling plans, in Georgia and Chicago. The company said it would continue to sell individual plans off the exchanges.

‘Challenges’

In a letter last month to health insurance companies, Obama said there had been struggles in implementing the law.

“We know that this progress has not been without challenges. Most new enterprises have growing pains and opportunities for improvement,” Obama wrote in the letter. “The marketplace, while strong, is no exception.”

The Affordable Care Act relies on privately run insurers to sell health plans to individuals through the exchanges, usually with government subsidies to reduce the price. About 11.1 million people were signed up for Obamacare plans at the end of March, according to the U.S.

Enrollment for coverage in 2017 opens Nov. 1, a week before the U.S. presidential election.

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