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Dylan Scott

Dylan Scott is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He previously reported for Governing magazine in Washington, D.C., and the Las Vegas Sun. His work has been recognized with a 2013 American Society of Business Publication Editors award for Best Feature Series and a 2010 Associated Press Society of Ohio award for Best Investigative Reporting. He can be reached at dylan@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Dylan

President Obama's nationally televised press conference Thursday -- in addition to announcing an attempted administrative fix for people whose health plans had been canceled under Obamacare -- was also a definitive mea culpa for the law's flawed rollout, which has helped send the president's approval rating plummeting.

On several occasions, Obama said that his administration had "fumbled" the implementation of his signature legislative achievement. The twin problems of people receiving cancellation letters and then being unable to access their new options under the law because of a dysfunctional website have driven the public's view and trust of the Obama White House to unprecedented lows.

So Thursday, the president owned up to that failure.

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The insurance industry's top lobbying group, America's Health Insurance Plans, warned Thursday that the administration's Obamacare fix could "destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers."

“Making sure consumers have secure, affordable coverage is health plans' top priority. The only reason consumers are getting notices about their current coverage changing is because the ACA requires all policies to cover a broad range of benefits that go beyond what many people choose to purchase today," AHIP president and CEO Karen Ignagni said in a statement.

“Changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers. Premiums have already been set for next year based on an assumption of when consumers will be transitioning to the new marketplace. If now fewer younger and healthier people choose to purchase coverage in the exchange, premiums will increase and there will be fewer choices for consumers. Additional steps must be taken to stabilize the marketplace and mitigate the adverse impact on consumers.”

TPM has obtained a copy of the letter that the Obama administration sent Thursday to state insurance commissioners, providing them with guidance on the administrative fix for people whose health plans have been canceled under Obamacare.

The fix allows health insurers to offer customers the option of renewing their existing coverage for an additional year. The administration will suspend any enforcement of the law's market reforms for these existing polices. The letter asks state authorities to do the same.

"State agencies responsible for enforcing the specified market reforms are encouraged to adopt the same transitional policy with respect to this coverage," the letter said.

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In a bid to quell a growing political crisis, the Obama administration announced Thursday that it will give health insurers new flexibility to renew existing individual health insurance policies that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act.

The announced changes to Obamacare were a capitulation to the growing furor created by a combination of policyholders receiving cancellation notices from insurers and being unable to access the HealthCare.gov marketplace to buy new policies.

Forcing President Obama's hand was the prospect of a vote in the House Friday on a Republican plan that would have allowed insurers to continue to sell non-compliant insurance plans into 2014. Many House Democrats were warning they would feel obligated to vote for the GOP plan. Senate Democrats were crafting similar plans to stem the outcry over policy cancellations.

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The problem for Obamacare isn't that people are receiving letters telling them that they're losing their current health plan. The problem isn't that HealthCare.gov has been performing poorly since it opened on Oct. 1.

The problem is that those two things are happening at the same time.

If those people with canceled health plans were able to log onto the federal website and find out what their new insurance options were, the outcry over old plans being cut off would likely be tempered. And that suggests that, if the White House can get the website fixed by the end of the month as they've pledged to do, the administration might ultimately be able to endure the political firestorm of the last few weeks.

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President Obama will make a statement Thursday on the Affordable Care Act at 11:35 a.m. ET, the White House has announced.

The expectation is that it will relate to the 'administrative fix' that the White House has been pursuing for people whose health plans have been canceled.

More than 100,000 people have enrolled in a private health plan since Obamacare's insurance marketplaces opened on Oct. 1, the federal government announced Wednesday.

But the disparity across states was striking. The 14 states (plus D.C.) that created their own marketplaces accounted for nearly 80,000 of those sign-ups. HealthCare.gov, which serves the other 36 states, totaled less than 27,000.

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Less than 27,000 Americans have enrolled in private health coverage through HealthCare.gov, the federal insurance marketplace that has been fraught with problems, since the site went live on Oct. 1, the Obama administration announced Wednesday.

The total enrollment in private insurance, including the 15 state-run marketplaces, as of Nov. 2: 106,185. Of those, 79,391 came from state websites, and 26,794 came from HealthCare.gov, which serves the others. In addition, nearly 400,000 have enrolled in Medicaid nationwide, according to the administration.

It's the first official check-up on the law's progress after a disastrous launch for HealthCare.gov. The enrollment number covers people who have selected a specific health plan, though they may or may not have paid their first premium yet.

The bottom line is: The federal website is dramatically underperforming. In Texas, which is using HealthCare.gov, less than 3,000 people have enrolled. In California, which built its own marketplace, more than 35,000 have.

The enrollment number of 106,185 comes in well below the White House's pre-launch expectation of 500,000 enrollments in October.

The administration noted that 106,185 is 1.5 percent of its total 2014 enrollment goal: 7 million. Of those, the White House is aiming to enroll 2.7 million young and healthy adults. The data released Wednesday included no information on the age of enrollees. Federal officials told reporters that they did not have a timeline for releasing demographic data.

According to the administration, about 850,000 applications nationwide have submitted to determine people's eligibility for coverage and financial assistance under the law.

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Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who introduced the House bill expected to come up for vote Friday which would allow people to keep their existing health plans, said Wednesday that a similar bill introduced by Senate Democrats might actually be better than his.

As TPM has reported, the Upton bill would amend the Affordable Care Act to allow insurers to continue offering their existing individual health insurance plans through 2014. The Senate bill, introduced by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), would require them to -- and allow people to stay on those non-ACA-compliant plans indefinitely.

“Let’s challenge them to pass [Landrieu’s bill] in the Senate, and if so, I think that’s even a bigger and perhaps better step than what we have in the House,” Upton told the Washington Examiner. “Let’s see if she can pass that.”

A Homeland Security official said Wednesday that the Obama administration is aware of one attempted cyberattack aimed at shutting down HealthCare.gov.

Roberta Stempfley, a Homeland Security acting assistant secretary, told the House Committee on Homeland Security that the attack, known as a "denial-of-service attack," had been unsuccessful.

"We are aware of one open-source action attempting to perpetrate a denial-of-service attack against the HealthCare.gov site that has been unsuccessful," she said.

"So there has been a denial-of-service attack on HealthCare.gov?" Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-TX) asked.

"There was the attempt of one, but it has not been successful," Stempfley said.

"And, of course, a denial-of-service attack has the ability to shut down websites," McCaul said.

"The goal of a denial-of-service attack, sir, would, yes, be to deny the access to that information," Stempfley said.

The exchange is below.

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