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Who Moved My Plan? A Growing Question for Obamacare

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the seriesHEALTHCARE REFORM Series

 

 


The Healthcare Reform series is designed to build a repository of information that enables citizens to stay abreast of sweeping changes within America’s healthcare system in accordance with the Patient Protection an Affordable Care Act [PPACA], otherwise referred to as Obamacare.  

  

Americans are getting their first glimpse of Obamacare. For many, the view is hopeful optimism in terms of guaranteed coverage. For others, the view is an unpleasant one. Healthcare websites broken, slow, confusing, and failing to disclose key information. Certain groups granted extensions, while others looking at non-compliance taxes.  

And now, word that millions of Americans will be losing the very doctors and healthcare insurance plans they have preferred prior to the rollout of Obamacare.

Did President Obama outright lie to the American people? 

Americans being able to keep their preferred physicians and health insurance plan was a cornerstone of Obama’s healthcare reform campaign. President Obama made it clear, on no uncertain terms, that if Americans like the insurance plan and doctors selected pre-PPACA that they could keep them. The President iterated this claim throughout his first run for the White House and during healthcare reform debates, despite the mounting challenges that such claims were bogus. The conviction demonstrated by President Obama in countless statements to the American people has media outlets, political pundits, and ordinary citizens questioning whether the chief champion of a healthcare insurance overhaul shaded facts, engaged in a politically-motivated sell job, or outright lied to the American people.  

 

 

On Wednesday, The Washington Post‘s Fact Checker gave Obama’s promise Four Pinocchios, the most scathing rating assigned only to “whoopers”. Fact Checker notes:

The administration is defending this pledge with a rather slim reed — that there is nothing in the law that makes insurance companies force people out of plans they were enrolled in before the law passed. That explanation conveniently ignores the regulations written by the administration to implement the law. …

The president’s statements were sweeping and unequivocal — and made both before and after the bill became law. The White House now cites technicalities to avoid admitting that he went too far in his repeated pledge. …

The president’s promise apparently came with a very large caveat: ‘If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan — if we deem it to be adequate.’ 

PPACASubtitleD
Buried inside the 1024-page PPACA is Section 1302, “Essential Health Benefits Requirements“. The Section stipulates minimum coverage for Qualified Health Plans as defined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The requirements span 10 general categories: (

A) Ambulatory patient services, (B) Emergency services, 

(C) Hospitalization, (D) Maternity and newborn care, 

(E) Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment, (F) Prescription drugs, 

(G) Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, (H) Laboratory services, 

(I) Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, and 

(J) Pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

 

Minimum requirements were not late-stage entries to the formation of Healthcare Reform legislation, but pillars of what Obama sought from the early inception of this key domestic policy priority. The push for plan qualification, while touting plan continuity, conveyed a message to the American public that at its core lacked congruence. Ultimately, the federal government was imposing itself onto health care insurance industry. And guided by President Obama’s promises, many ordinary citizens — including those pleased with their plans and not inclined to wade through mounds of Congressional jargon — said “I Do” to an Obamacare partner that was at-best playing fast with the facts. Or at-worst, a partner that was a (in this context) misrepresenting itself.

Americans were cautioned… 

  

Contrary to Obama’s promise, Americans are losing their plans across the country. Private citizens are receiving letters that the plan of their choice will no longer be available under the new health insurance regime. Companies are briefing their employees of changes that PPACA has prompted. Those changes often include one or a combination of higher premiums, rising deductibles, a greater co-insurance burden, and other forms of alterations in plan parameters that amount to once enjoyed policies going away. 

CBS News reports that over 2 million people are receiving plan cancellation notices, with 279, 000 in California, alone.  And according to the health insurance companies, these plans are being terminated in response to various PPACA plan qualification provisions.

Fact Checker further recalls that after Obama made promises in a speech at an American Medical Association, the Associated Press concluded in its smart analysis entitled “Promises, Promises: Obama’s Health Plan Guarantee” that the President would not be able to keep his pledge.

Georgia physician and Republican Congressman, Tom Price warned the same in an Aug. 24, 2009 weekly address to the nation. Price plainly held, “On the stump, the president regularly tells Americans that ‘if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.’  But if you read the bill, that just isn’t so.  For starters, within five years, every health-care plan will have to meet a new federal definition for coverage — one that your current plan might not match, even if you like it.” 

Given the Congressional Budget Office [CBO] estimate that 10 million would need to seek new insurance because current plans would be invalidated under the Senate’s version of healthcare reform, warnings of lost plans could hardly have been deemed GOP political “scare tactics”. And yet, as in many major policy debates, the ideological lines in America are drawn so that opposing views are discounted simply because of the source of the views. Many who might otherwise be on different ends of other policy issues attempted to warn the country that Obamacare would send myriad shockwaves throughout the lives of ordinary citizens. Those voices, however, were labeled as being on a mission to ruin the [first black] President of the United States. And now, the opposition voices are ringing louder with each unsealed health insurance plan cancellation letter.  

A familiarly false pretext 

lieAmerican cynicism about politics and politicians smolders when promises made soon become promises broken. When nuanced explanations seek a plausible departure from misleading commitments. The path Obamacare has followed strangely resembles other major reforms that our government pushes with a populist rhetoric, where citizens are left to wonder have they been had. Sticking it to corporations. Making them more accountable. Dealing with improprieties that harm consumers. These themes all sound great on Main Street, but more often than not, ultimately benefit powerful corporate interests. Supposedly major actions against Exxon and BP for oil spills — both of which amounted to wrist slaps. Publicly railing about Wall Street greed in the aftermath of the financial market meltdown resulted in unprecedented bailouts, no prison terms, and only modest reforms. And now, one has to wonder whether Obama’s tought-talk bout reining-in health insurance profiteers was nothing more than pretext. Bait-and-switch. False pretense. A narrative to engender support, recognizing that when the dust settles, health insurance profits will be protected, if not stimulated.

Relative to the broken promises regarding policy continuity, a Kaiser Health News article recently noted:

Both Independence and Highmark are cancelling so-called “guaranteed issue” policies, which had been sold to customers who had pre-existing medical conditions when they signed up. Policyholders with regular policies because they did not have health problems will be given an option to extend their coverage through next year.Consumer advocates say such cancellations raise concerns that companies may be targeting their most costly enrollees. They may be “doing this as an opportunity to push their populations into the exchange and purge their systems” of policyholders they no longer want, said Jerry Flanagan, an attorney with the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog in California.

The Bottomline …

So here we are. Confronting the realities of a complex piece of legislation that is the largest tax increase ever levied on the American people. Riddled with implementation problems. And putting the federal government in the middle of making preferred healthcare plans obsolete, or more appropriately stated, illegal. The effects of Obamacare are now being felt with Americans, many of whom were satisfied with their existing plans. A number of reports underscore the massive and unwanted changes, and what this means to consumers in every state, across the socioeconomic spectrum, and in every walk-of-life, vocationally. Losing plans, many policyholders preferred, is real. The President knew this day would come, but for political reasons, opted to mislead the American people.

These developments serve as more evidence that Obamacare, while maybe caring about common people, cares more so about a business model that would strengthen health insurance profits.

 


 

 

Related Reports:

CBS This Morning: Thousands of Existing Healthcare Plans Canceled (October 28, 2013)

NBC: Consumers Facing Sticker Shock Due To ObamaCare (October 28, 2013)

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

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