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Obama defends new change in Affordable Care Act
Shaheen said she was pleased with the Sebelius move.
"This clarifies an option that will help those consumers who have had their plans cancelled this year transition more smoothly into the marketplace," she said in a statement with the five other senators.
"What we're talking about is a very specific population that received cancellation notices from insurance companies," Obama said. "We just wanted to make sure that the hardship provision that was already existing in the law would also potentially apply to somebody who had problems during this transition period."
In fact, the law already includes a number of exemptions for people who cannot afford to buy health insurance or for other reasons are unable to obtain it. And even for those who do not qualify for an exemption, the penalty for not having insurance is relatively small, starting at $95.
Obama's opponents have argued that the administration's frequent tinkering with the law's deadlines and requirements are a sign of fundamental flaws and also represent an excessive use of executive power to change a statute passed by Congress.
"I've said before that this is a messy process," he said, adding that he knew that some people ask "isn't the fact that it's been so messy some indication that there are more fundamental problems with the law?"
"What we are constantly doing is looking — is this working the way it's supposed to? — and if there are adjustments that can be made to smooth out the transition, we should make them," he said, adding that the shifts "don't go to the core of the law."
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