The Republican-controlled House has passed legislation letting insurance companies sell individual coverage to all comers, even if it falls short of standards set in "Obamacare."

President Barack Obama speaks about the Affordable Care Act (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The vote was 261-157, and came after GOP lawmakers said the bill would ease the plight of millions of consumers reeling from cancellation notices.

The White House threatened a veto if the measure eventually reaches President Barack Obama's desk. Democratic leaders worked furiously to minimize defections on the issue, while mindful it is likely to figure prominently in next year's elections with control of Congress at stake.

The vote came Friday as Obama arranged a meeting at the White House with insurance company CEOs, and as the industry and state insurance commissioners began adjusting to an abrupt change in policy he announced a day earlier.

Obama's top health care official says the number of people wanting to keep insurance policies that were canceled because of the federal health overhaul is small. But Kathleen Sebelius says those people have valid concerns that the administration is addressing.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaks about the Affordable Care Act during her visit to Community Health and Social Services Center (CHASS) in Detroit (Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Sebelius today visited a Detroit health clinic, where she sought to reassure the public that the troubled federal insurance website will be much improved by the end of November.

Obama yesterday said his administration will no longer require insurers to get rid of plans that fall short of minimum coverage standards. People currently covered by those plans would be able to keep them for another year.

Sebelius says that strikes a balance -- ultimately steering those people to plans with more comprehensive coverage, but also recognizing that residents who don't qualify for tax subsidies on the exchange may be at a financial disadvantage.

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