Barack Obama, Obamacare — October 30, 2013 at 8:27 am

If you like your broken health care system, you can’t keep it


Obamacare1Finding out that your health insurance plan has been cancelled is terrible — especially when you have cancer.

This practice, known as recision, was one of the worst and first insurance industry abuses banned by the Affordable Care Act, along with annual caps on coverage and pre-existing conditions for kids.

Discovering that your insurance policy doesn’t cover much of anything after you or a family member has become sick is also unbearable.

The Affordable Care Act also seeks to end this far too common misery for the about 15% of America in the individual insurance market, which is why insurers are sending out millions of notices that inform people that their plans are being discontinued. Most of these policies do not meet the new requirements established by the law.

The good news is that if you earn over 400% of poverty, just over $40,000 for an individual and about $90,000 for a family of four, you can replace this policy with no fear that you or a family member will be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition. You can do this now through a private insurer. It’s true that you may end up paying more for your coverage. But when you get sick, which you will, you and your family will be covered and able to retain coverage and shop for new coverage, even if you have a chronic ailment. And if your insurance company doesn’t spend enough on care, you’ll get a rebate.

The sort-of bad news is that if you earn under 400% of poverty you have to go to to get the subsidies that will help you pay for your new, more comprehensive plan. This is sort-of bad news because the site — depending on the state you live in — often doesn’t work, which is its own kind of misery. You have until December 15th to replace your plan by the beginning of next year and until the end of March to avoid paying the individual mandate.

After years of suggesting Obamacare would spark a Nazi, Communist and Satanic “government takeover” that would set the sky on fire, insurance plans that need to be upgraded and a broken website are what Republicans are stuck complaining about.

Of course, cancellation notices have been sent out by the millions over the last decade by the insurance industry. When these notices came, individuals then had to find insurance in a unregulated marketplace where they could be rejected for any reason whatsoever.

Republicans weren’t upset then.

26,000-45,000 Americans die every year for a lack of insurance. Any outrage from the GOP? Hundreds of thousands more go broke. Not an outrage. Trying to fix the broken system and not doing it seamlessly? Outrage. But outrage only good for 40+ repeals of Obamacare, not enough outrage to pass one plan to replace it.

The fact is America already has a socialized health care system, thanks in part to Ronald Reagan. It’s just socialized in the dumbest possible way, which is why we pay more for health care than any country in the world and don’t get anywhere near the best results. Emergency rooms can’t turn people away, driving up costs for all Americans. And instead of subsidizing the uninsured who are trying to get out of poverty, taxpayers subsidize Ted Cruz’s $40,000 health insurance plan.

Republicans do have a point that President Obama relied on a simplistic, untrue talking point to push his health law: If you like your plan, you can keep it.

He could have have nuanced it in a million ways, possibly by saying: If you like your plan, you’ll keep it or get something stronger. But he didn’t.

The president has no more elections to win. Despite the fact he prevented a depression, saved the auto industry and will end two wars, his legacy is tied to the Affordable Care Act, which is the greatest victory for the middle class since Medicare.

I think that the president should say that he should have been clearer.

He could say this then point out that most Americans will still not even notice a change in their policies, which are now stronger than ever. However, Americans in the individual market may need to find a new policy that meets basic requirements and will cover their family comprehensively. And millions of uninsured Americans, millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions will get affordable coverage, possibly for the first time, as we get working as well as it needs to.

If I were him, I would add:

But if you like the broken health care system that Republicans are trying to defend — a system where millions go broke each decade and millions more feel indentured to their employers for their family’s well-being, a system where insurance companies could sell policies that don’t cover enough then don’t spend enough on care, a system where America’s economy falls behind the rest of the world as thousands of Americans die needlessly — I’m sorry, you can’t keep that.

The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. And I will not let the temporary misery Americans feel when they discover they lost their plans become a permanent misery for the millions and millions of Americans that will be covered this law. If Republicans are really outraged by Americans not having or not being able to afford insurance, I invite them to get out of the way or help me as we as a nation do something about it.

[CC image credit: Will O’Neill | Flickr.]