Nightly News   |  December 20, 2013

Insurance companies protest latest changes to healthcare law

Those with canceled healthcare plans can now apply for a “hardship exemption” which was originally only available to people under 30 who are facing serious financial hardships. NBC’s Kristen Welker reports.

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>> the latest change, the one that affects people who receive cancellation notices, nbc's kristen welker explains how it works and why there is pushback.

>> reporter: the latest last-minute change by the obama administration -- millions of americans who got cancellation notices if their insurance companies now have the option to buy cheap, bare bones policies and could opt out of coverage all together without penalty.

>> you could argue you may as well have delayed the mandate.

>> that's not true. we are talking about a specific population that received cancellation notices from insurance companies .

>> reporter: that population? an estimated 3.5 million people, some who were forced to buy more expensive plans because their policies didn't comply with the new law. now those with cancelled plans can apply for a hardship exemptions and get catastrophic coverage. that's a basic plan which was on originally only available to people under 30 and those with serious financial hardship. today, backlash from the insurance companieses.

>> by allowing these people to be able to purchase coverage that's separate from the marketplace or opt out all together could result in higher costs for consumers purchasing coverage.

>> reporter: there was confusion at a sign-in center in silver springs , maryland, where workers scrambled to make sense of the latest change.

>> it can be challenging as different parts of the law change on a weekly basis or sometimes on a daily basis.

>> reporter: the white house says it has beefed up staff at call-in centers to help people navigate the system. there are now 12,000 trained representatives at 17 sites. still, the rocky health care rollout pushed the president's disapproval rating to its highest point ever. today he attempted to turn the page .

>> when you try to do something this big affecting this many people, it's going to be hard.

>> reporter: now on wednesday a group of democratic senators who were also facing political pressure because of the rocky rollout of the health care law urged the president to make this change. it only took him one day to comply. mr. obama announced today more than a million people have now enrolled through the exchanges. lester?

>> kristen welker at the white house , thank you.