‘If you like it, too bad’

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As usual, today’s Sentinel editorial (“If you like it, too bad”) tells less than half the story.

“Simply put, President Barack Obama’s oft-repeated claim that if people like their existing health insurance policies they can keep them under ObamaCare” is substantially accurate – as applied to the actual provisions of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).

First, nothing in the ACA required insurers to cancel “grandfathered” (issued prior to its passage) policies, and insurers knew full-well that non-compliant policies issued after the ACA was passed would have to be cancelled by January 1, 2014. 

Second, there is increasing evidence that many of those notorious “cancellation letters”  were actually part of a deliberate marketing campaign to retain healthy customers by canceling non-compliant policies then steering those insureds to new policies with higher premiums than those obtainable from the same company on ACA exchanges.  Kentucky has already fined one insurer $65,000 for deceptive letters, and investigations are under way in Missouri and Washington (which has issued a statewide “consumer alert”).

Last month, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that individual premiums available on ACA exchanges averaged 16% lower than originally projected, saving some $190 billion over ten years and resulting in an average reduction of some $2500 per family per year – suggesting an inconsistency between anecdotal “horror stories” and reliable evidence.

Indeed, the Sentinel failed to report that virtually every individual case publicized in the media and then fact-checked by responsible journalists turned out to be “exaggerated”.  Indeed, complainants typically reacted to the inflated premiums quoted in the letter, and had not even checked the exchange and/or calculated their eligibility for premium credits.

The Sentinel also failed to distinguish between “junk policies” and real health insurance.  President Obama was only remiss in under-appreciating how attached trusting purchasers have become to “cheap” (but all-too-frequently ineffectual) “insurance”.

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