Administration Extends Plans Not Meeting ACA Standards For Another Two Years

After days of speculation, the Obama Administration on Wednesday announced a two-year extension for individual health insurance policies that do not meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act. The delay generated extensive media coverage, with reports saying it is the latest indicator of problems in ACA implementation as well as a possible effort to avoid hurting Democrats during this year's midterm elections.

The two network broadcasts that briefly reported on the news recalled the presidential promise that preceded the delays. NBC Nightly News (3/5, story 7, 0:25, Williams) reported, "About that promise by the President - 'if you like your healthcare plan you can keep it' - the White House announced late today that some will now be able to keep their plans for another two years." And ABC World News (3/5, story 5, 0:15, Sawyer) echoed, "The White House announced it's official - if you like your old healthcare plan, you can keep it, for another two years."

The AP (3/6, Alonso-Zaldivar) says HHS, "warding off the specter of election-year health insurance cancellations," announced the two-year extension, which "helps defuse a political problem for Democrats in tough re-election battles this fall." On its front page, USA Today (3/6, A1, Kennedy) says the change is "another midcourse correction for the law, which is still recovering from the flawed opening of the federal and state health care exchanges...and the delay of several key provisions." But HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, "These policies implement the healthcare law in a common-sense way by continuing to smooth the transition for consumers and stakeholders and fixing problems wherever the law provides flexibility." On its front page, the Wall Street Journal (3/6, A1, Radnofsky, Subscription Publication) adds that other Administration officials also called the delay a practical response to business and consumer concerns.

On its front page, the New York Times (3/6, A1, Pear, Subscription Publication) says the decision comes as the White House is "struggling with continued political fallout over its troubled health care law." The Times says the "action goes much further" than the "one-year reprieve" the President announced last November, "essentially stalling for two more years one of the central tenets of the much-debated law: that health insurance plans had to meet a basic minimum standard for care."

The Washington Post (3/6, Harrison) "On Small Business" blog is less critical, focusing its coverage on the Administration's announcement that states will have more time to implement an employee choice option for small businesses, saying late in its article that it is "one of a larger set of changes the administration announced Wednesday - for instance, the White House also announced that it will allow individuals and small businesses with non-ACA compliant plans to keep their insurance for another two years."

Politico (3/6, Cheney) says "in practice the new policy could have a limited impact," since the extension "is optional for both states and the health plans themselves," and so far, "only about half the states have allowed the older, often skimpier, plans to continue."

The Daily Caller (3/6, Bordelon) writes that "Obamacare architect" Ezekiel Emanuel's "honesty was on full display Wednesday" when, appearing on MSNBC, he "denounced the policy implications of yet another Obamacare delay but admitted that 'for the political gain, it's worth it.'"

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