In a speech yesterday in Massachusetts, President Obama acknowledged the growing national outrage that his famous promise, "If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan," has proven to be so much high-profile bullshit. Sure, millions of Americans are getting cancellation notices because their health plans aren't grandfathered under the Affordable Care Act's strict rules and don't meet the law's extensive new mandates, but that's for your own good. You may like your coverage, but you shouldn't. It's just not good enough, says the prez. And if you're getting stuck with a higher tab…well that's just the cost of helping everybody out, don't you know.
Smarmed the president at Faneuil Hall:
Now, it is also true that some Americans who have health insurance plans that they bought on their own through the old individual market are getting notices from their insurance companies suggesting that somehow, because of the Affordable Care Act, they may be losing their existing health insurance plan. This has been the latest flurry in the news. Because there's been a lot of confusion and misinformation about this, I want to explain just what's going on.
One of the things health reform was designed to do was to help not only the uninsured, but also the underinsured. And there are a number of Americans –- fewer than 5 percent of Americans -– who've got cut-rate plans that don't offer real financial protection in the event of a serious illness or an accident. Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad-apple insurers had free rein every single year to limit the care that you received, or use minor preexisting conditions to jack up your premiums or bill you into bankruptcy. So a lot of people thought they were buying coverage, and it turned out not to be so good.
Before the Affordable Care Act, the worst of these plans routinely dropped thousands of Americans every single year. And on average, premiums for folks who stayed in their plans for more than a year shot up about 15 percent a year. This wasn't just bad for those folks who had these policies, it was bad for all of us—because, again, when tragedy strikes and folks can't pay their medical bills, everybody else picks up the tab.
Now, if you had one of these substandard plans before the Affordable Care Act became law and you really liked that plan, you're able to keep it. That's what I said when I was running for office. That was part of the promise we made. But ever since the law was passed, if insurers decided to downgrade or cancel these substandard plans, what we said under the law is you've got to replace them with quality, comprehensive coverage —because that, too, was a central premise of the Affordable Care Act from the very beginning.
If you couldn't afford coverage because your child had asthma, well, he's now covered. If you're one of the 45 million Americans with a mental illness, you're now covered. If you're a young couple expecting a baby, you're covered. You're safer. The system is more secure for you and it's more secure for everybody.
So if you're getting one of these letters, just shop around in the new marketplace. That's what it's for.
You see, you just "thought" you were buying coverage, but "it turned out not to be so good." Aren't you glad that Barry was there to save you from your foolish choices? Oh, you have a case of sticker shock? But remember, your premium could have "shot up about 15 percent a year." Whaddya mean your Obamacare-compliant plan is shooting up a hell of a lot more than that? Are you a Californian, where middle-income consumers face an average 30 percent increase in premiums on the exchanges? You must hate poor people if you don't want to spread a little of your wealth. When you're impoverished by the premiums, you might qualify for a subsidy, too.
Don't think an employer's plan will protect your preference for "substandard" coverage; the president knows better than them, too. Up to 64 percent of large employer and 80 percent of small employer plans are under the gun, too. They're apparently just not good enough.
And if all this drives you nuts, be thankful that treatment for mental illness is now mandated under the Affordable Care Act. At a price.