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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

In Maryland Speech, Obama Promised No Changes for Individual Market Plans

Let me preface this post by stating something that some new readers may not know, I supported the Affordable Care Act when it was passed in 2010. I continue to support substantial portions of it, especially the use of tax credits and insurance exchanges to extend coverage to the uninsured. That said, I consider the substantial disruption of the Individual Health Insurance Market to be an unacceptable outcome. As pointed out I my last post, the original legislation grandfathered most existing plans, but when the Department of Health and Human Services published implementing regulations they made the grandfather restrictions so severe that their own estimate was the decimation of the Individual Market. It serves no purpose, it is not essential for the law's success, it is paternalistic and cruel. I am also outraged by the fact that the President continued to promise people they could keep their existing plans long after who knew it wasn't true. On a recent trip to Maryland, the President once again made his all to familiar pledge.

As the news on millions of cancellation notices continues to grab headlines, the White House and sympathetic supporters have been trying to pretend that President Obama never actually promised that Americans could keep their existing health plans. The President himself has suddenly claimed that he always told people there would be exceptions to his promise... too bad that he never actually told people there would be exceptions. And the President kept making that promise even after his own Department of Health and Human Services published predictions in the Federal Register acknowledging that upwards of 10 million Americans will see their existing coverage cancelled.

President Obama brought his promise to Maryland on Sept. 26 in a speech meant to tout the soon to launch healthcare.gov website. In his speech, he repeated the claim that people could keep their existing insurance. What makes this speech different is that he made specific reference to the individual market.
"Now, let’s start with the fact that even before the Affordable Care Act fully takes effect, about 85 percent of Americans already have health insurance -– either through their job, or through Medicare, or through the individual marketSo if you’re one of these folks, it’s reasonable that you might worry whether health care reform is going to create changes that are a problem for you -- especially when you’re bombarded with all sorts of fear-mongering.
So the first thing you need to know is this:  If you already have health care, you don’t have to do anything.  In fact, for the past few years, since I signed the Affordable Care Act, a lot of you have been enjoying new benefits and protections that you didn’t before even if you didn’t know they were coming from Obamacare."

The Maryland speech marks one of the few times the President made a specific reference to folks in the Individual Market and he clearly implied promised "If you already have health care, you don’t have to do anything." No caveats. No reference to plan changes. Just a promise. A completely untrue promise that he knew to be untrue at the time he made it. It's hard to explain how a President could tell folks that they "don't have to do anything" when his own folks tolk him that roughly 10 million of those people on the individual market would have to find new coverage.

*** I've actually received emails from folks arguing that nothing in the excerpted paragraphs could possibly be interpreted as a promise that folks could keep their existing coverage. Seriously. Sorry, folks, the reality is there's simply no other way to read those paragraphs other than as just such a promise.