Updated: December 2, 2013 12:35PM
A president celebrated for oratory is tripped up on his own words. Misleading is the most generous interpretation of President Barack Obama’s infamous declaration — made time and again — that if you like your health-care insurance, you could keep it under the Affordable Care Act. But millions of Americans getting cancellation notices may feel that deception is a better description of Obama’s now discredited pledge.
This may be just the beginning of a controversy that could grow in the weeks and months ahead.
Now the focus is on the individual insurance market, meaning those Americans who buy their insurance outside of an employer or some other organization. That’s 14 million people. Obama’s words about satisfied Americans keeping their coverage blew up in his face when NBC News reported that administration officials knew that as many as two-thirds of those Americans would not be able to keep their insurance even if they liked it. The Washington Post’s fact checker called Obama’s assertion a whopper worthy of the most damning rating of four Pinocchios.
Obamacare mandates certain coverage — such as for treatment for substance abuse, maternity care or pediatric dental care — even if you don’t want or need it. Cancellation means a more expensive policy unless you qualify for government subsidies, and we’re hearing from a lot of Americans who don’t.
But this issue doesn’t end with the individual market. In September, the AFL-CIO passed a resolution calling Obamacare “highly disruptive” and said that “contrary to the law’s intent, some workers might not be able to keep their coverage and their doctors . . .” At issue are health plans jointly administered by unions and small employers in the construction, retail and transportation businesses. The AFL-CIO worries the small firms may leave the nonprofit plans.
A Forbes.com report asserts federal records show that many employer plans now protected by a “grandfather” provision in the law could lose that status. If accurate, millions of Americans face insurance changes because employer plans don’t meet Obamacare mandates.
Another flash point on the keeping-your-insurance issue was postponed when the administration delayed until 2015 the start of the employer mandate, the provision requiring all businesses with more than 50 employees to provide insurance coverage. Once this part of Obamacare takes effect, there’s reason to believe it will cause small businesses to cap their full-time work force at 49 people. Some big employers might conclude it’s better economically to cancel health policies, pay a fine and throw their workers on the taxpayer-subsidized Obamacare exchanges.
Coming in 2018 is a tax on “Cadillac” policies with generous benefits provided by large employers. Even modest plans may be hit by the tax.
On the horizon obviously are several threats to insurance Americans already have and like.
Obama and his allies are dancing as fast as they can to explain his false pledge and blame “bad apple” insurers who issue “substandard” policies. But the reality is his words have been exposed to mean you can have the insurance the government likes whether you like it or not.