Tension Rise Over Obamacare as Americans Can't Keep Existing Health Care Plan

Andrew Klips |

“We will keep this promise to the American people.  If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan.  Period.” Those were the words of President Barrack Obama on June 15, 2009 when speaking on the changes coming with the Affordable Care Act. In countless speeches that followed in the next four years, the words may have been changed some, but the message was exactly the same. There is no disputing that or misunderstanding such simple sentences.  As NBC News’ Lisa Myers wrote on Tuesday, though, nothing could be further from the truth…and Myers says that the government knew this at least three years ago, but continued to bang the podium saying that most of the 14 million Americans who buy their insurance individually would not have a choice to keep their health care plan.

Myers’ story on Tuesday, entitled “Obama administration knew millions could not keep their health insurance” detailed how the government wrote the legislation to allow existing policies to be “grandfathered,” permitting existing policyholders to choose to keep their policy. According to Myers, the legislation was written in the narrowest way, effectively prohibiting most people with individual plans the opportunity to keep their policy.

The long and short of it is that the law allows for policies in effect before March 23, 2010 to be grandfathered, permitting that the policy has not undergone any “significant” changes since that date (i.e. changes in benefits, co-pay or deductible). As Myers notes, because of a normal insurance industry turnover rate of 40 to 67 percent and changes that are made to policies, the vast majority (up to 80%) of those 14 million consumers buying their own insurance will not be able to have their policy grandfathered. 

(Apropos, my wife and I are in a pre-existing conditions plan, for which we have received a cancellation notice and our children are on a separate plan with Humana, for which we have received a cancellation notice. I will write further on that later when we finally make it through the registration process to get insurance through the new healthcare.gov marketplace, which at the outset appears that our premiums are going to significantly increase.)

What Obamacare does is mandate that consumers have more robust plans that meet a specific set of criteria, ensuring (in the government’s words) “that people have insurance that they can rely on” with “many” people being eligible to receiving subsidies to offset the increase in premiums.

White House spokesman Jay Carney this morning defended the Affordable Care Act, saying that everyone has known and said all along that some policies weren’t going to meet the requirements of the new law. Realistically, Carney’s comments did nothing to address the aforementioned quotation from President Obama, nor did it reflect any knowledge that perhaps more than 11 million people would not have a choice to keep their current plan.

Myers ultimately shed more light on the flip side of the ACA that is becoming quite a topic across the nation.  While the President is making appearances on television reciting letters from individuals praising the benefits that they are receiving from the ACA, there is a growing choir of voices singing the song of premiums significantly increasing, despite the President incessantly chanting that nothing would change for people that didn’t benefit from the ACA.  Amongst several examples of people feeling that they “are going to get screwed,” Myers references a 62-year-old man that received a cancellation notice for his current policy that cost him $228 per month.  The best option that the man found in the new “affordable” marketplace will cost him $948 per month.

House Speaker John Boehner made an appearance this morning, saying that the implementation of Obamacare has “thrown a wet blanket on the economy,” citing policy cancellations, rising premiums and a small employer in his district that said management is fearful to hire anyone because of possible ramifications of insurance policy changes.  Boehner said that implementation of Obamacare has to be stopped and fixed before moving forward with it.

Myers’ article is the next chapter in a book being written on what is appearing to be some shady government strategies related to Obamacare. While Democrats are now backstepping, and giving speeches that can be interpreted as “I know that’s what we said, but it’s not what we meant,” or referencing statistics about people that would lose their insurance plan anyway (check out CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner today testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee), consumers and opposition to Obamacare are demanding (and entitled to) answers.  “Sticker shock” is becoming a common phrase to describe the prices on premiums for individuals through the new marketplace.  In fact, as Forbes noted, the government pulled the plug on a plan to have an option to browse plans before registering on healthcare.gov to have consumers see if they were eligible for a subsidy before seeing the price of a new insurance plan. Of course, for those that are not eligible, it’s understandable why they are so upset.

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