Policy Documents

The Administration’s Audacious Blame Game

October 30, 2013

[First published at National Review Online.]

The White House is trying to shift responsibility to health insurance companies for forcing people out of their existing health plans, but the companies are required to discontinue these plans to comply with the president’s health law.

The administration is trying to deflect Americans’ rightful anger over losing the health plans they were promised they could keep, but the strategy of shifting blame flies in the face of the facts.

If a health plan they are offering now doesn’t cover the directed “essential health benefits” and comply with hundreds of pages of regulations issued since the health law passed in 2010, then that plan can no longer be offered unless it was “grandfathered.”  Companies are offering replacement plans that comply with the law but which are generally MUCH more expensive!

Audaciously, presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett Tweeted: “FACT: Nothing in #Obamacare forces people out of their health plans. No change is required unless insurance companies change existing plans.”

In fact, you cannot keep your plan if you bought it after March of 2010 or if even minor changes have been made, such as changing the deductible or copayments.  The majority of Americans with individual health insurance policies are being forced out of their plans by Obamacare by the rules adopted by the Obama administration in implementing the health law. Health insurance companies are doing what they must to comply with the health law.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tried to thread a very fine needle when said during the Tuesday press briefing, “If you had a plan… and you liked it, and you’ve kept it, you can keep if forever as long as your insurer offers it.”  That is true for only a small percentage of the estimated 14 million Americans who have individual health insurance policies.

“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,” Carney said.

In the last few weeks, more than two million people have received notices that their individual health plans are being cancelled as a direct result of Obamacare because do not include mandated coverage and meet the rules required by the health law.

But Republicans argue this flies in the face of Obama’s repeated claims that people would not lose their current coverage.

“We will keep this promise to the American people… if you like your healthcare plan, you will be able to keep your healthcare plan, period,” Obama told the American Medical Association in 2009.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich, on Monday introduced the “Keep Your Health Plan Act” to address the growing problem.  He introduced the bill on behalf of himself and every Republican member of the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee, which he chairs.

“This legislation is about providing folks the peace of mind that they will be allowed to keep their current coverage if they so choose,” Upton said in a statement. The bill would allow plans sold on the market today to continue to be available.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., introduced similar legislation in the Senate also designed to let people keep their current health-care plans. The bill would grandfather currently existing plans into Obamacare and rescind a slew of new mandates the law put on those plans.

The White House’s recent response to its clear violation of the public trust that if-you-like-your-health-plan-you-can-keep-your-health-plan is all too reminiscent of the Clinton years:  It all depends on what the meaning of “health plan” is.

The American people aren’t buying this new blame game, and even Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer conceded that Democrats knew people would not be able to keep their current health care plans under Obamacare and expressed qualified contrition.

“We knew that there would be some policies that would not qualify and therefore people would be required to get more extensive coverage,” Hoyer said in response to a question from National Review.

NBC NEWS reported Monday that “50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a ‘cancellation’ letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. One expert predicts that number could reach as high as 80 percent. And all say that many of those forced to buy pricier new policies will experience ‘sticker shock.’”

A 2010 IRS document addressed a rule in the health law that states individual policies purchased on or before March 23, 2010, would be “grandfathered” — or exempt from changes required under Obamacare. However, the provision was changed so that plans that undergo “significant changes” could lose that special status. Significant changes mean increasing a copayment by more than $5, for example.