This week in an interview with OZY Media, former president Bill Clinton was asked about what’s become the central “problem” with the Affordable Care Act — that some health insurance customers who apparently like their plans have received cancellation notices. Clinton’s response was bizarre: “I personally believe, even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.”
Not only does this unnecessarily yank the rug out from under the administration while it’s in damage control mode already, but it also feeds the trolls and scaremongers who are ghoulishly delighted by this one hiccup in the system and are actively blowing it way out of proportion in order to gather support for repealing the ACA.
What do we know for sure? Most of the people who Clinton said should be allowed to “keep what they got” are paying for a big heap of crap on a stick, knowingly or unknowingly. When they receive cancellation notices, they can easily sign up for a better plan that might cost a little more, or a lot less, and which provides considerably better coverage. I’m not sure how altering the law just because one of the president’s memes didn’t work out is such a good idea.
The only real solution is to require all health insurance companies to keep existing plans in place even if the plans don’t contain any of the consumer protections mandated by the law. But one of the consumer protections in the ACA banned the practice of arbitrarily canceling policies, leaving the existing policies that people “like” vulnerable to being canceled anyway. The only way around this loophole is to revise the law so it forces the “no arbitrary cancellations” rule onto existing policies. But if you’re going to do that, why not go ahead and force all of the consumer protections into the existing policies?
The answer is obvious: because many of the policies people claim to “like,” such as junk insurance and catastrophic plans that only provide (barely) minimal benefits with very high deductibles, co-pays, annual limits and so forth, happen to have very low premiums. In most cases, that’s what they like — the low premium. But if we stumble down this tangential path in response to a presidential mistake or Republican spin, grinding our gears instead of letting the law take its course, health insurance companies would be forced to let these people keep the plans they like, but would then simply jack up premiums, co-pays and deductibles to compensate for the additional ACA benefits and consumer protections. Then what? Probably another round of outrage porn… [CONTINUE READING]