President Barack Obama’s oft-repeated promise that “if you like your health plan you can keep it,” always seemed farfetched. Few employers with group plans would feel comfortable making that promise to their workers. Health care was rife with variables before Congress passed the Affordable Care Act and it remains so today.
Today is when Obamacare opponents are having a field day with the president’s “if you like your plan you can keep it” pledge. Thousands of Americans who purchase insurance on the individual market are receiving word from their insurers that their policies are being canceled or altered because of new requirements imposed by the Affordable Care Act. News outlets, it seems, are determined to interview every one of these folks.
But the development, while a bonanza for the president’s critics, isn’t bad news at all for many of the people who can’t keep their policies. Many of them have bare-bones coverage that won’t actually pay for much if they get sick or injured. Those kinds of policies are no longer allowed under the health care law, which says insurance policies must cover hospitalization, emergency care, maternity care, mental health treatment and other things.
A lot of the people whose policies are being canceled are being offered higher-priced policies by their insurers. And, right, it never hurts to make a pitch. But it’s highly likely that these consumers will find policies on the state-based insurance exchanges that offer more than they’ve been receiving at similar or even lower prices.
Very unfortunately, people are receiving cancelation notices at a point when HealthCare.gov, the federal website emcompassing 36 state exchanges, is still beseiged with technical difficulties. It’s still too much of a chore for people to get on the site and see what their options are. In time, though, they’ll be able to shop for affordable policies with much better coverage than the inexpensive packages we’ve been hearing about.
Remember that we’re only talking about a sliver of the population — about 15 percent. About a third of Americans are covered by Medicare or Medicaid, and about half receive health insurance through their workplaces, where changes in plans are a fact of life.
Obama was out on a limb with his promise and now it’s been sawed off. Lots of Americans are finding they’re not able to keep their health plans. But though the fall is jarring for the president, many of the jilted policyholders will wind up in a better place.