Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Marilyn Tavenner defended President Obama's repeated claim that "if you like your plan, you can keep it" under the Affordable Care Act in a House Ways and Means hearing Tuesday.
The claim has been attacked recently, as many people continue to receive cancellation notices from their insurance companies. But Tavenner argues this was going on before the Affordable Care Act.
"Half of the people in the individual market prior to 2010 didn't stay on their policies," she said. "They were either kicked off for pre-existing conditions, they saw their premiums go up at least 20 percent a year, and there were no protections for them. And sometimes they were in plans that they thought were fine until they actually needed to hospitalization, and they found out it didn't cover hospitalization or it didn't cover cancer."
The health care law says that any insurance plans already in effect as of March 23, 2010 are "grandfathered" under the law. Consumers can keep those plans without penalty, even if they don't meet all the new ACA requirements, unless the insurance company significantly changes part of the plan.
Tavenner says some cancellations are occurring as a result of companies offering new plans, which must then include protections required under the law. These include many measures, such as those that prevent discrimination based on pre-existing conditions or on gender.
Tavenner also maintained that premium increases were occurring long before Obamacare. "In fact, we've seen the most premium moderation in the last three years than we've seen probably in 15 or 20," she said.
"So what I would tell [individuals] is if their carrier is telling them they're changing the plan and they're offering an increase ... they would need to go take a look at what's available in their state and in their market, which is certainly something that's available to them through the exchange."
The hearing, which follows the problem-plagued rollout of the Obamacare website, saw Republicans fiercely attacking the law and Democrats fighting to defend it, with lawmakers often talking more than Tavenner herself. Her appearance will set the table for a hearing Wednesday in which Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will come before Congress.