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President's healthcare law change raises questions

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

An interesting turn of events from the Obama Administration Thursday will affect millions of people nationwide. The president announced that Americans who had their healthcare coverage canceled because of the Affordable Care Act will get to keep those plans for at least another year. Or will they?

The president's remarks are raising a lot of questions, but the answers may not be readily available.

"I completely get how upsetting this can be for a lot of Americans, particularly after assurances they heard from me that if they had a plan that they liked they could keep it. And to those Americans, I hear you loud and clear," the president said.

After intense pressure over cancellation notices going out, the president announced a change that will allow insurers to renew those policies for one year.

"The bottom line is insurers can extend current plans that would otherwise be canceled into 2014. And Americans whose plans have been canceled can choose to re-enroll in the same kind of plan," Obama said.

The announcement raises questions about whether the president has the authority to do this or the authority to enforce it. 

"The president has a great deal of executive power, and all presidents try to maximize that power," said associate Professor Robert McFarland of the Jones School of Law.

McFarland doesn't see the president's announcement as a quick fix.

"I suspect by tomorrow there will be lawsuit filed somewhere challenging his authority to do this," McFarland said.

And while the president is allowing insurance companies to re-issue those old policies that don't comply with the new law, he's not making it mandatory.

"He's not compelling insurers to re-issue policies, he is making it possible for those companies to issue them," McFarland said.

Congressman Mike Rogers says he still has "deep concerns" despite the announcement. Rogers released this statement: 

"Tomorrow the House will pass the Keep Your Health Plan Act which would allow people to keep their current plans. This bill has bipartisan support and is the legislation the president should sign into law, not some last minute, politically-motivated administrative move overseen by Washington bureaucrats."

"Obamacare is hurting hard-working families across the country. Folks in East Alabama have contacted me about the changes in their current healthcare policies and the increase in their premium costs. The president owes it to the American people to keep his promise. The best path forward is to get rid of Obamacare altogether, and I am deeply skeptical of this most recent last-minute so-called fix."

Alabama Department of  Insurance officials say they are evaluating how the change will impact Alabamians. The department released the following statement: 

"We are carefully evaluating how this change will affect policy holders and the insurance industry. There are many unanswered questions about how this change in policy at this late date can be carried out. Our goal here is to serve the people of Alabama by providing consumer protection and promoting market stability. We are actively gathering information regarding the impact on consumers and will work diligently to protect the interests of Alabamians."

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley released the following statement Thursday:

"I would like to commend the President for recognizing what I have said all along, that the Affordable Care Act is unworkable legislation. This late change is an acknowledgement by the federal government that the complexities of this convoluted law are making its implementation practically impossible. I would like to see this law repealed and a bipartisan group of experts and stakeholders brought together to create a truly effective, accessible and affordable health insurance and healthcare plan for the people of this country."

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