Millions forced to switch insurance under ObamaCare; President apologizes

Brooklyn Currents | 10/29/2013 | 0 comments

From Yahoo News, NBC News and other outlets

Before the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010, President Barack Obama promised Americans they could keep their health care plans if they liked them. But already hundreds of thousands of citizens are receiving notification that their plans are being canceled because they don't comply with the new law, and, according to NBC News, the Obama administration has known for at least three years the cancellations were coming.

UPDATE: Obama apologizes for cancellations caused by the ACA. See below

While campaigning for health care reform in 2009, Obama went out of his way to make one thing perfectly clear: If you like your current health care plan, you will be able to keep it.

On June 15, 2009, Obama said this: "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."

In 2012, he echoed that sentiment, saying, ""If [you] already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance."
However, many are finding that not to be the case. More than 300,000 cancellation notices have been sent out in Florida, according to Kaiser Health News, and another 180,000 in California. In New Jersey, the number of cancellations tops 800,000, the Star-Ledger reports. 

According to NBC News, approximately 50 to 75 percent of the 14 million Americans who buy their health insurance individually should expect to receive a cancellation letter over the next year "because their existing policies don't meet the standards mandated by the new health care law."

This could result in millions of Americans being forced to purchase different policies, potentially at higher premiums.

So how did the Obama administration know the cancellations would be coming?

The Affordable Care Act states that people who had health insurance prior to March 23, 2010 — the day Obama signed the bill into law — will be able to keep those policies even if they don't meet the requirements of the new law. However, the Department of Health and Human Services tightened that provision so that "if any part of a policy was significantly changed since that date — the deductible, co-pay or benefits, for example — the policy would not be grandfathered," NBC News reports.

Because the market for individual insurance experiences significant turnover, the insinuation is the Obama administration had to have known many policies "grandfathered" in would not qualify for the Affordable Care Act. NBC News reports that the administration knew in 2010 that "more than 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them."

"This says that when they made the promise [that individuals could keep their plans], they knew half the people in this market outright couldn't keep what they had and then they wrote the rules so that others couldn't make it either," Robert Laszewski of Health Policy and Strategy Associates told NBC News.

On Monday, former Obama adviser David Axelrod said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that "most people are going to keep their own plan." When asked about Axelrod's admission of "most" as opposed to all, White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledge that some individual's plans will be canceled, but countered that the plans they switch to will be better and affordable.
"What the president said and what everybody said all along is that there are going to be changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act to create minimum standards of coverage," Carney said. "… So it's true that there are existing health care plans on the individual market that don't meet those minimum standards and therefore do not qualify for the Affordable Care Act."

Actually, what the president said back in 2009 was "[the Affordable Care Act] is for people who aren't happy with their current plan. If you like what you're getting, keep it. Nobody is forcing you to shift."

Only now, some who like their plans are being forced, including Laszewski. According to NBC News, he has a so-called "Cadillac plan" — "the best health insurance policy you can buy," he said — but recently received notice in the mail that it was being canceled.


Obama apologizes for some Americans losing insurance plans
President Obama speaks in Boston on Oct. 30 about the Affordable Care Act  (AP Photo)

President Obama said in an interview on Thursday, Nov. 7 that he’s sorry a number of Americans are being forced to change their health care plans despite previous assurances that the Affordable Care Act would allow them to keep their existing plans.

"I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me," Obama told Chuck Todd during an interview with NBC News at the White House.

Obama’s admission represents the latest evolution on the issue dating back to before the Affordable Care Act was even voted into law in 2009.

"We've got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this," Obama told NBC.

Up through September of this year, Obama was adamant that the Affordable Care Act would not impact Americans who already had their own health insurance.

“If you already have health care, you don’t have to do anything,” Obama said in a speech on September 25th speech in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

About 95 percent of Americans with health insurance are covered through their employers or a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid. Obama has also assured those people that their plans will not be impacted under the health care law.

However, independent estimates now project that the majority of those 5 percent of Americans who buy their own plans (about 14 million people) will have to make some kind of adjustment. The White House and administration surrogates have tried to mitigate criticism by contending some of those individuals will actually end up with cheaper and better plans. Nonetheless, the administration’s inability to clearly articulate to the public the nuance of the "grandfather" clause has turned it into a growing controversy for Obama.

After the law went into effect in October, early reports began to emerge that Americans who buy their own insurance were starting to get letters from insurance companies informing them they would need to upgrade their plans in order to be in compliance with the Affordable Care Act.

White House officials continued to insist that Obama did not “lie” to the American public about the issue. However, throughout October, the administration’s stance continued to evolve.

“What the president said and what everybody said all along is that there are going to be changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act to create minimum standards of coverage," White House Spokesman Jay Carney said on October 28th. “So it's true that there are existing health care plans on the individual market that don't meet those minimum standards and therefore do not qualify for the Affordable Care Act."

By October 30th, Obama’s own take had become, “Ever since the law was passed, if insurers decided to downgrade or cancel these substandard plans… you’ve got to replace them with quality, comprehensive coverage."

The White House has attempted to shift blame to insurance companies themselves. But on Thursday, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker said it was not accurate or fair to place all of the blame on private insurance carriers.


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