“That means that no matter how we reform health care, 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’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”
– President Obama, speech to the American Medical Association, June 15, 2009 (as the health-care law was being written.)
“And if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it. No one will be able to take that away from you. It hasn’t happened yet. It won’t happen in the future.”
– Obama, remarks in Portland, April 1, 2010, after the health-care law was signed into law.
By now, everyone knows that when Obama promised people that if they liked their health insurance plan, they would be able to keep it under Obamacare, he was lying. There are two possible explanations for this lie: either (a) Obama didn’t understand the law he was trying to sell to the public and made this promise out of ignorant incompetence, or (b) he understood perfectly well that the consequence of outlawing existing plans would be that people would no longer be able to keep those plans.
This is obviously not rocket science, so (b) seems the more likely explanation. After all, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) was pointing out at the same time Obama made that promise in June ’09 that the draft legislation would force an estimated 10 million people out of their existing plans. In fact, Obamacare regulation itself has since July 2010 been on the books with an estimate that 40% – 60% of customers would be forced out of their insurance plans by the law.
Now, hundreds of thousands of Americans are being sent letters from their health insurance providers notifying them that their existing plans do not conform with the requirements of Obamacare and so will by law be terminated. According to an NBC news investigation, 50% to 75% of the 14 million Americans who are on individual plans will lose their insurance, and many of those, naturally, will be forced to pay higher premiums under any new, Obamacare-approved plan.
Particularly hard hit are younger and/or healthier people who opted for low-premium, high-deductible plans, who will now be forced to switch to new plans with higher premiums.
The Washington Post, for example, told the story of Rod Coons and Florence Peace, who paid $403 a month for a family plan with a $10,000 annual deductible. This was “just the way they like it”, the Post observed. Coons is not young, but he is healthy. He told the Post he spends no more than $500 annually on medical care, so all he wanted from his policy was exactly what it gave him: catastrophic coverage. He said he would prefer to stay with that plan, but because of Obamacare, he will be forced out of it.
CBS News told the story of Natalie Willes, who said, “I was completely happy with the insurance I had before.” She had a $1,500 deductible and paid $199 a month. Because of Obamacare, she will lose that plan. “The most similar plan that I would have available to me would be $278 a month,” she explained. “My deductible would be $6,500 dollars, and all of my care after that point would only be covered 70 percent.” She added, “Now I’m being forced to choose from a bunch of new plans that I don’t want to choose from that are all more expensive.”
NBC told how George Schwab, 62, said he was “perfectly happy” with his plan that covered him and his wife for $228 a month. Now, thanks to Obamacare, the “comparable” plan his insurer offered him in its place would cost him $1,208 a month, and the cheapest plan he found on the government’s insurance exchange is $948 a month — a 415% increase in cost.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat explained that in his home state of Connecticut, a healthy 30-year-old could get insurance starting at under $100 a month, and a 60-year-old under $300. But now, thanks to Obamacare, “nothing is that cheap”. The cheapest plans now available are $224 and $537, respectively. Douthat points out that many people being forced out of their old plans may be eligible for subsidies, but the premium increases begin to “really bite” for individuals with income above $45,000, or $62,000 for family of four.
But the facts aren’t preventing the media from trying to spin the situation by parroting meaningless government propaganda. As NBC reported, “The White House does not dispute that many in the individual market will lose their current coverage, but argues they will be offered better coverage in its place, and that many will get tax subsidies that would offset any increased costs.” President Obama said on October 30 that the law was intended “to help not only the uninsured but also the under-insured” who had “cut-rate” plans from “bad apple insurers”.
So, “better” insurance. That’s a good deal for everyone who will be forced out of their old plan, right? I mean, who wouldn’t like “better”? Rod Coons? Florence Peace? Natalie Willes? George Schwab? They obviously don’t know what’s good for them. It’s a good thing we have the government to outlaw their freedom of choice and tell them what’s in their own best interests and help them see that those “bad apple” plans they would prefer are really not right for them.
The media think so, anyway.
“By all accounts, the new policies will offer consumers better coverage,” Kaiser Health News commented when reporting how hundreds of millions would lose their plans, many of whom would be forced to pay higher premiums. The CBS report mentioned earlier quoted director of public health policy at UCLA Gerry Kominski saying that these individuals will be “paying more for a better product” and that they just “won’t understand the value of that until” they “need it”. In his “Fact Checker” piece at the Washington Post pointing out how Obama was lying when he said anyone who wanted to could keep their plan, Glenn Kessler played the apologist by offering the remark that “in virtually all cases,” plans people were being forced out of were “being replaced with probably better (and possibly more expensive) insurance”. TIME magazine under the headline, “The Bright Side of Obamacare’s Broken Promise”, similarly suggested that those losing their plans “may be better off” for it.
What all these commentaries are missing is the fact that nobody can tell a consumer what their own subjective valuations and personal preferences are. It is obvious nonsense to insist to people who were happy with their old plan and unhappy about having to pay more for a new one that this is “better” for them, because only they can know that. It obviously isn’t “better” for people who preferred to pay more out of pocket for lower premiums and who don’t need maternity care, substance abuse treatment, prescription drugs, rehabilitation, chronic disease management, mental health care, or other “essential health benefits” the law mandates that all insurance plans must now offer.
Glenn Kessler allowed that “There may be a certain percentage of people who were happy with their ‘substandard’ plan, presumably because it cost relatively little.” But, remember, they just don’t know what’s good for them.
Ross Douthat, on the other hand, didn’t presume to tell consumers what was good for them and sensibly inquired:
If we ever get beyond the follies of HealthCare.gov, the politics of the rollout will probably be defined by how (and how vocally) middle-class Americans just above the subsidy threshold react to this “pay more, get more, subsidize other people” deal. Some of them will be buying for the first time, spurred by the mandate’s penalties; many others will be shopping for a new plan because their previous ones no longer meet Obamacare’s requirements. Will they be grateful for more comprehensive coverage, even though it’s being forced on them and has higher premiums attached?
Or, as the Obama administration and many if not most other media commentators would alternatively put it: Will they learn to understand that government bureaucrats knows better than they do what is good for them and acquiesce to having their freedom of choice legislated away and being forced to pay more for insurance in order to subsidize the costs of care for others?
This is, after all, a key purpose of the law, to force younger, healthier people to pay higher premiums in order to subsidize the costs to the sick. This is why you can read op-eds like this one in the New York Times explaining that once the “glitches” in the Obamacare website (HealthCare.gov) are fixed, the government needs to double-down in “an enormous P.R. campaign” to “make their purchasing experience smooth” and to convince “the key demographic” — the “young and healthy” — to sign up. See, if this “key demographic” just decides to ignore the law and not purchase a new, more expensive plan, and instead decides that it would be in their financial interests just to defer buying insurance until they get sick (since the law also forbids insurers from denying people for pre-existing conditions), then premiums would rise for everybody.
Which is why the young and healthy must be told what is in their own best interests and be made to understand that losing their old plan is a good thing, because a new, more expensive plan would be “better” for them.
Of course, the fact that until last week, it was “frighteningly simple” for hackers to hijack accounts and gain access to users’ sensitive personal information on HealthCare.gov probably isn’t helpful in this regard.