‘If you like it, too bad’

While the computer issues related to the HealthCare.gov website continue to cause problems (the site was down for extended periods last weekend), concern is growing about the ability of people with individual insurance to keep their old policies or find affordable replacements.

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 wildly inaccurate.

And the hoopla so far has been only about people who purchase their own insurance policies rather than receive insurance through their employer. The clamor will get far louder if millions more Americans find that insurance policies they like are being dropped by their employers due to cost.

It’s no longer just Republicans raising these issues. The Los Angeles Times was the first major media outlet to do a story on the sticker shock many middle-income Americans are experiencing as they learn their existing insurance policy is being canceled because it doesn’t meet the requirements of Obamacare, and that the cost of a new policy is considerably higher. NBC followed with a story of its own, and The Washington Post had an article Monday.

These stories are only anecdotal, it’s true, because no one knows for sure how many people fall into this category or how many have successfully obtained new policies.

But one doesn’t have to look far to find similar stories, such as the Mesa County couple who own their own business and who were informed that their existing health insurance was being canceled because it doesn’t meet Obamacare mandates. Then they learned the minimum cost of a new policy will be nearly triple the existing cost.

Not to worry, say Obamacare proponents. Most of those facing high premiums for new policies will be eligible for subsidies under the new law. But many of those cited in the news articles are decidedly middle-income. They are not wealthy, but they will receive no subsidies or, at best, small ones.

The computer problems related to the Obamacare rollout will probably be fixed eventually. But, if the cost to get health insurance under the new law is excessively high for a large segment of the population, then the president’s health care reform will face far more serious problems in the long run, regardless of the promises made.


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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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