President Obama says he's looking for a "fix" to address cancelled insurance plans. That doesn't mean he'll find one.
Obama has directed his health care advisers to look for a way to deal with the wave of cancellation notices hitting some policyholders. But health policy experts have no idea what the White House could actually do to alleviate the sticker shock some consumers are facing.
"I can't imagine what they're thinking about," said Tim Jost, a Washington & Lee University law professor and an expert on the Affordable Care Act.
Policy wonks on both sides of the health care debate held open the possibility that the administration will come up with something — there have been too many surprises already in the implementation process to rule anything out. But it's hard to see what the White House could do, on its own and specifically without Congress, that would make much of a difference.
That's partly because these plan cancellations are not a side effect of the Affordable Care Act. The administration knew they were coming, and they were an inevitable part of the reforms the law makes to the market for individual insurance policies.
Weakening the regulations that led to plan cancellations might not make any difference at all, or might undermine the basic structure of the law. And trying to simply offer more assistance to people losing their plans would require congressional approval — which, of course, Obama wouldn't get.