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Top House Democrat: We Knew Some Insurance Policies Would End

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said Democrats "weren't precise" enough when they promised that people would be able to keep their insurance plans if they liked them.

Posted on October 29, 2013, at 12:31 p.m. ET

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.

WASHINGTON — Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that Democrats and President Obama should have been "more precise" when they promised that if Americans liked their health care coverage they would be able to keep it under the Affordable Care Act.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans have received cancellation policies from their insurance companies since the start of the ACA, undermining the key promise Obama made in 2009 when he said, "If you like your healthcare plan, you'll be able to keep your healthcare plan, period." Many Democrats repeated that promise, including Hoyer, even after the law was passed.

Hoyer said that Democrats knew that certain policies in the individual market would not meet the new coverage requirements in the ACA, and would therefore be cancelled. The promise of being able to keep current coverage was directed to people who have health care through their employer or have a plan that meets ACA standards, he said. He said that people with cancelled coverage will now have access to better insurance.

"We knew that in requiring the individual market, some five percent of the market, requiring certain minimum standards … what we said in the legislation is look, you've got to have minimal coverage so you meet that responsibility. To that extent we knew there were policies that would not meet that, particularly in the individual market," he said. "We knew there would be some policies that would not qualify and therefore people would be required more extensive coverage, and of course that coverage is available in the exchange."

Hoyer defended the broader message but said that Democrats would have been wise to have been clearer that many policies would end up being cancelled.

"I don't think the message was wrong, I think the message was accurate. It was not precise enough [and] should have been caveated; assuming you have a policy that in fact does do what the bill is designed to do," he said.

"We used it in trying to allay the fears of people who had group coverage, or coverage though their employer which was the overwhelming number. You could have caveated 'unless you have coverage that's insufficient to accomplish the objectives of giving you adequate quality health care.'"

Republicans have pounced on the many news reports of people losing their coverage, and say the President and Democrats misrepresented the law to get it passed.

"The president knew that these letters were coming. And this is really, really troubling, I believe, for all the American people," said Majority Leader Eric Cantor. "If the president knew that these letters were coming and still indicated that you could keep your health care plan if you liked it, now that raises some serious questions about the sales job of Obamacare."

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    Kate Nocera is the DC Bureau Chief for BuzzFeed News. Nocera is a recipient of the National Press Foundation's 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting on Congress.

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