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Obama drops in on meeting with insurers on upcoming Obamacare enrollment season

United States president Barack Obama
Alex Wong | Getty Images

It's Obamacare, with a personal touch.

President Barack Obama on Monday personally appealed to insurers to help boost enrollment in Obamacare health plans during the next open enrollment season, which begins in November.

Obama dropped by a meeting that senior officials in his administration were having Monday with more than a dozen insurance company chief executives at the White House, according to a White House official.

The official said that at that meeting, administration officials "underscored the importance of continuing the work that has helped bring the uninsured rate to the lowest level on record and solicited ideas for how to strengthen the marketplace."

The president also sent a letter to every insurance company offering coverage in Obamacare plans next year "to emphasize the Administration's commitment to working with them, discuss recent actions to further strengthen the [Obamacare] marketplace, and ask for their help in signing up uninsured Americans," according to the official.

Obama's direct outreach comes as his signature health-care reform law has run into headwinds this year, even as Obamacare has been credited with pushing down the nation's uninsured rate to just 8.6 percent, the first time in history it has fallen below 9 percent.

A trio of major insurers — Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, and Humana — all have said they are sharply pulling back their footprint in the individual health plan market and on the types of plans sold on government-run Obamacare exchanges, which will reduce the number of options available to consumers.

And the premiums on Obamacare plans are set to rise at a greater rate, on average, for 2017, than they have in the past several years.

While Humana CEO Bruce Broussard was at Monday's meeting, the CEOs of Aetna and UnitedHealthcare were not. Other attendees included David Cordani, CEO of Cigna, as well as a number of Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan CEOs.

In addition to Obama, administration officials at the meeting included Sylvia Burwell, the secretary for Health and Human Services, as well as Obama's Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and Deputy Chief of Staff for Implementation Kristie Canegallo.

In his letter to insurance companies, Obama wrote that the Affordable Care Act has made "a profound difference" in the lives of millions of Americans.

"The Marketplace has helped contribute to a record low uninsured rate, and Marketplace enrollees report high satisfaction, improved access, and a reduced chance of falling into medical debt," Obama wrote.

But Obama noted that "we know that this progress has not been without challenges."

"I want to enlist your help as we head into this fourth annual open enrollment period," the president wrote. "Together, we have been part of historic changes to the United States health system that have improved health quality, equity, affordability, and outcomes. But our work is not over. I look forward to our continued success."