These Journalists Laugh at Your Puny Health Insurance Policy Cancellations


Insert "press gaggle" joke here. Also, this really does come from the White House press shop. ||| White House
White House

Yesterday, I wrote about how President Barack Obama's approach toward journalists while selling the Affordable Care Act has arguably amounted to "working the refs." But there are some professional truth-slingers who require no extra nudge–they're here to tell you that Obamacare critics are all wet, that maybe the president went a wee bit too far with that whole you-can-keep-it stuff, but that the more important thing is that these aren't the health plans you were looking for.

Here's a sampling from the genre; bolding is mine to emphasize apologia for presidential mendacity and other WTFery:

David Firestone, New York Times, "The Uproar Over Insurance 'Cancellation' Notices":

Most lawmakers mentioned President Obama's unfortunate blanket statement that all Americans would be allowed to keep their insurance policies if they liked them. He failed to make an exception for inadequate policies that don't meet the new minimum standards. […]

The so-called cancellation letters waved around at yesterday's hearing were simply notices that policies would have to be upgraded or changed. Some of those old policies were so full of holes that they didn't include hospitalization, or maternity care, or coverage of other serious conditions.

Republicans were apparently furious that government would dare intrude on an insurance company's freedom to offer a terrible product to desperate people. […]

Luckily, a comprehensive and affordable insurance policy is…now a basic right….Ms. Sebelius never lost her cool in three-and-a-half hours of testimony, perhaps because she knows that once the computer problems and the bellowing die down, the country will be far better off.

Pssst! Hiltzik! That box to your right! ||| White House
White House

Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, "Obamacare hysteria: Don't believe the canceled insurance hype":  

We're supposed to be scandalized by this, since President Obama himself assured everyone that if they liked their insurance they'd be able to keep it. […]

Back in March, Consumer Reports published a study of many of these plans and placed them in a special category: "junk health insurance." Some plans, the magazine declared, may be worse than none at all. […]

It's time to tamp down the breathless indignation about these health plan cancellations. Many of the departing plans are being outlawed for good reason, and many of the customers losing them have no idea how much financial exposure they were saddled with in the old days. That's the real scandal in American health insurance, and Obamacare is designed, rightly, to fix it.

I prefer his early work. |||

Henry J. Aaron, New York Daily News, "The truth about those Obamacare coverage letters":

Of late, numerous reports have told of people surprised by letters telling them that insurance plans they now have will not be renewed. Many are puzzled. Weren't they told that if they like their insurance they could keep it? Opponents of health reform in general are seizing on the fact and asking in an accusatorial manner: "Isn't this a betrayal of trust?"

No. […]

[Obamacare] bars certain common practices of insurance companies that most people find unacceptable at best, outrageous at worst. […]

People should be no more shocked when substandard insurance plans are removed from the market than they would be if food purity legislation caused some products to be removed from a grocer's shelf. Obamacare is removing insurance products from the market that are bad for your health.

"Terrible" insurance products that are "bad for your health" and being "outlawed for good reason"? You might want to ask Robert Laszewski about that.

Read Peter Suderman for more on how "The Obama Administration's Response to Insurance Plan Cancellations Is Misleading and Condescending." An excerpt from that:

The argument here, essentially, is that anyone whose plan gets canceled didn't really like his or her plan—that, even though the beneficiary might not know it, the plan being canceled wasn't worth having anyway.

It's a fundamentally condescending argument that makes a blanket assumption that people don't know whether or not they liked their plan. It's also a bunch of nonsense.

The administration can't possibly know what sort of insurance each and every individual likes or wants, and it can't account for the people who are losing plans that clearly did meet the needs of the individuals who purchased them.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto has a piece making similar points to mine, and with more examples worth reading.

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  1. That’s right, it’s our faults for having “shitty” plans and not toeing the fucking lion that our betters laid out for us.

    1. The so-called cancellation letters waved around at yesterday’s hearing were simply notices that policies would have to be upgraded or changed.

      In other words, canceled, and replaced with something the consumer would rather not have.

  2. Americans are obviously too dumb to realize they need coverage for maternity care, and substance abuse treatment, and mental health and birth control, and zero co-pays for preventive care.

    People who don’t get a free annual colonoscopy will obviously end up in the emergency room with spontaneous prostate cancer and cost us all a whole bunch, er, SOME, money. Either that or they might have SLIGHTLY LARGE medical bills.

    1. Damn adult males not wanting comprehensive women’s and maternity coverage. Fucker’s don’t know what’s good for ’em!

      1. If you’re a post-menopausal woman and you plan doesn’t offer free birth control pills and maternity, your plan is a “junk plan” and needs to be outlawed. You don’t know what’s good for you.

        1. At least under ObamaCare the post-menopausal woman has the offsetting benefit of the 3x cap on her premium. It’s the youngish income-earning man who is really getting the shaft under the ObamaCare scheme.

          1. I wonder how all the young black men earning just slightly over $47,000 per year are feeling.

        2. As a 40-something gay guy, those free birth control pills and maternity care are just what I needed.

          Thanks Obama!

          1. “free”

    2. Evidently you missed Tony’s screed yesterday making exactly this point: Americans are too stupid to know whether they’re planning to have, or apparently even capable of bearing, children; ergo, we need bureaucrats to prescribe higher premium omnibus coverage, just in case.

      1. Well I mean, what if you get hit by a bus?

        1. That’s when I gave up; on the one hand we’re discussing coverage for genetic impossibilities, and he brings up highly unlikely events that are better protected against by affordable catastrophic plans than expensive omnibus coverage. The lack of self-awareness just rankles.

          1. But what if you get hit by the omnibus?

            Actually that’s what’s happening now.

            1. Dear Waffles,

              We reviewed your claim regarding the accident you had with an omnibus. Unfortunately, any Acts of Congress are not covered.

              If you would like to appeal this decision, please call: 1 800 FUC KYTW.

          2. It’s the catestrophic policies that are “not real insurance” that are getting canceled … so that you can have maternity coverage.

            1. Gotta love that “not real insurance” line. Especially since the things they’re slinging aren’t insurance, but prepaid health plans.

            2. The “not real insurance” I have at the moment is better coverage than the bronze plans being offered to me. It’s on par with the silver level. Ok, maybe it didn’t cover 100% of mental health treatment or colonoscopies, but that wasn’t the reason I had it.

              1. I’ll bet your “not real insurance” covers out-of-network providers too.

        2. Excellent point. What if you get hit by a bus, and the bus driver flies through the windshield into your car and impregnates you? GUESS YOU DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING, DID YOU, LIBERTARDS?! Good thing Obama had your back and MADE you get maternity coverage.

        3. I’m still trying to figure out what that had to do with my post. He jumped straight from talk of maternity coverage to “what if you get hit by a bus?”

          1. It had to do with him being a sockpuppet. Or a full on demfag retard.

        4. If you got hit by a bus, you might wind up at an out-of-network hospital that doesn’t accept your ObamaCare insurance.

          But don’t worry, you can have a free colonoscopy when you get out.

      2. Having listened an NPR WIC promo piece yesterday, I almost believe him.

        Their sob-story for the cuts in food stamps was a woman who was supportng her two daughters and her three grandkids.

        I feel bad for the grandkids, but I have zero sympathy for the daughters and the grandmother who are obviously stupid beyond belief and amoral to boot.

        1. Perhaps, but do you suppose that woman or any of her progeny paid for their own health insurance? The issue of the uninsured should remain separate from the supposed underinsured; so far, I’ve yet to see good data that raising health premiums coupled with mandated coverage serves the uninsured any better than, say, expanding Medicaid. Meanwhile, we’re ousting millions of covered individuals, those who already were paying for their insurance, on the premise that they’re too dumb and/or uninformed to make decisions about their coverage.

          Those who may well be too benighted to understand insurance products aren’t any better served by this clusterlove, and those who presumably did have some idea and some sense of personal responsibility are screwed by it.

          1. Just to clarify, I don’t favor expanding Medicaid to more recipients. My druthers involve turning out the bureaucrats and politicians involved in running these things, confiscating their property as proceeds of theft, burning their records, statutes, mandates, and regulatory books, salting their fields and goring their oxen. I would then proceed to liberalize the provision of healthcare in any and all quarters, privatize licensing boards, strike CON laws, and any other competitive impediment thought up by Progressives in the past century.

            But given a choice between a little bit of redistribution and wholesale redistribution, I’d prefer a little bit.

    3. You wonder if these columnists get the talking points memo/email and go to work, or if they just love Obama so desperately they try to defend his mistakes reflexively, without a nudge.

  3. I’m making a list, I’m checking it twice.

  4. Yet, somehow, these horrible awful fraudulent useless fake not-really-insurance-you-stupid-moron plans managed to get approved by all those blue-state insurance commissioners. Why have those Democrats spent decades shafting sick people?

    1. Well, Bryan, this is EXACTLY why we can’t let the nasty states have any power. Everything should be national, because that way we can stick it to those dirty, homophobic, racist, women-hating red staters, especially the Southerners we are all one people, and states don’t do what we say and have even begun daring to stand up to pub sec unions, aren’t forward thinking enough.

      1. But DC home rule is still sacred.

        1. Well, Doctor Whom, all the people living in DC are forward thinking TOP MEN. So of course THEY can be trusted.

    2. I guess that even in the blue states, state insurance commissioners didn’t have enough power to protect us from market failure and greedy corporations.

  5. [Obamacare] bars certain common practices of insurance companies that most people find unacceptable at best, outrageous at worst.

    I assume that Aaron has talked to most people in order to confirm this assertion, so who am I to argue?

    1. From the progressive dictionary:

      most people, n. phr. I

    2. You know the only thing I hated about my wife’s insurance?

      The $750 yearly max for preventative care and that it wasn’t transferable between my wife, my daughter, and I.

      Of course, I would have much preferred to have just parked that $300 we paid each month in an HSA to use as we needed.

  6. It’s not just inexpensive policies being canceled. My father, a well-to-do retiree with comprehensive health insurance, called me yesterday and told me that his insurance is being canceled due to Obamacare.

    1. Obviously he didn’t have maternity coverage

      1. Yes, and from now on, he’ll be entitled to a free annual colonoscopy. On the downside, he won’t get to decide who gives it to him, cause his plan won’t have any out-of-network coverage.

    2. two words: pediatric care. There are things he is not telling you about.

  7. Some plans, the magazine declared, may be worse than none at all.

    Like the Medicaid system, some “beneficiaries” of which have been found to end up with worse outcomes than those without insurance at all:


  8. So, how long until the first story about someone’s identity stolen on the exchanges?

    While the MSM will probably ignore that story like the plague, that kind of thing sounds like red meat for some local affiliate- mostly because they love them some “Terrify old people about technology!” stories.

  9. The point of OCare is to make you pay more to subsidize someone else’s insurance. That is mathematically incompatible with “if you like it you can keep it”. The whole point of OCare was to make that a lie. Your insurance is “substandard” only in that it didn’t meet Obama’s needs.

    Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld said something they most likely knew to be false to sell the Iraq war. Obama said something is goal was to make false to sell OCare. Obama is therefore the bigger liar.

    1. Good insurance for an individual doesn’t generate excess cash for the insurance company that could be used for subsidies. It’s merely a hidden tax, with the evil ‘private’ insurance companies as the collectors, so the private sector can be blamed instead of the govt.

      1. Indeed. Progressives wanted to expand the welfare state, but met resistance when it came to raising taxes. ObamaCare is a massive income redistribution that does not require taxes per se. Penaltaxes, yes, but only for non-compliance with its mandate.

    2. Here’s the thing. The people who were currently buying their own policies on the individual market were:

      (A) the most likely to actually continue buying policies on the individual market. They bought them when it wasn’t mandatory, so you could count on them to keep buying them.

      (B) The relatively healthy, since the insurers did not have to insure people with pre-existing conditions.

      What does this add up to?
      A large group of people who aren’t already sick, and are likely to buy health insurance, but aren’t currently on community rated plans.


    3. Bush and Cheney didn’t know it to be false. At worst they are guilty of wishful thinking or reading the intelligence with a lot confirmation bias. No one knew for sure that Saddam didn’t have WMDs and everyone inside Iraq seemed to think he did.

      That is different than this. It is not like Bush and Cheney read the intelligence to believe something that was mathematically impossible. Either Obama was lying or he believed the equivalent of Bush and Chaney believing Saddam had invented a perpetual motion machine.

  10. What a clusterfuck. and this is happening when 9 out of 10 of the enrollments actually are for Medicaid. The front page of the post had a story about it .. said that some health policy analysts were shocked. they need better health policy analysts. this outcome was obvious from the moment the bill was signed into law

    1. Possibly the best outcome is an inverse Cloward-Piven, OC becomes so overcrowded with welfare recipients that the public turns on it.

      1. Given that almost no plans offer out-of-network coverage (not even co-insurance) it very soon will turn into a glorified welfare program.

    2. This is the good thing about opposing people whose stated political philosophy largely revolves around being economics deniers. Sometimes they will actually buy into their own baloney and set traps for themselves. The revolutionary process has broken down in this case, and the counter-revolutionaries may actually win a battle.

  11. why is anyone surprised by media mendaciousness? These folks count on most people not having seen the minute changes that can cause a plan to be declared unfit by The Obama Court. Something as small as a $5 hike in co-pays is enough, never mind the more obvious shit like a 60-year old man’s plan that did not cover maternity/pediatric care.

    1. Even with “grandfathering” you can’t renew the policy after it expires.

  12. I thought it was depressing when they just quietly regulated these plans out of existence, but now, years later, I have to listen to these assholes crow about how terrible they were? Seriously there is no fucking god people.

  13. And these are just the individual policies, when employer-based coverage cancellations start dropping, that will be a real shitstorm

    1. They’ve already started.

  14. Looks like they are also going back to “Republican’s sabotage”. See

    I admit I was a little shocked by this Politico piece. “Is this supposed to be a straight news article? Seriously? Maybe I am too far down the libertarian media rathole….” Admittedly, I don’t read Politico that much. Is it supposed to be a more respectable version of Daily Kos?

    1. Wreckers! Kulaks!

      It’s astonishing how every single time this argument boils down to: it’s the GOP’s fault for not helping fix a shitty bill we forced down their throats

    2. That may sound like a left-wing conspiracy theory…

      but he assures us it’s not.

    3. Progs are going completely insane. This is their Waterloo and they can’t handle let alone comprehend it.

  15. CNN: Senate Democrats supported rule that led to insurance cancellations
    Washington (CNN) – Senate Democrats voted unanimously three years ago to support the Obamacare rule that is largely responsible for some of the health insurance cancellation letters that are going out.

    In September 2010, Senate Republicans brought a resolution to the floor to block implementation of the grandfather rule, warning that it would result in canceled policies and violate President Barack Obama’s promise that people could keep their insurance if they liked it….

    1. And just a month ago they voted unanimously to shut down the government rather than delay it.

      They own this thing. Maybe if there had been a few Republican votes for it or maybe if some more time had passed in between it going into effect and people feeling the effects, they could pull off the blame the Republicans and insurance companies shell game. If this were 2018 and people were losing their policies, they might have been able to do it. But virtually the next day after they all voted for it and shutdown the government to keep the Republicans from delaying it? No way. Not even low information America’s attention span is that short.

      1. Speaking of the blame game, remember when the shutdown was a bad idea because it ruined a golden opportunity to showcase how bad Obamacare is?

        1. I never thought that. I always thought that making the Dems stand up and take ownership of this was a good thing. The conventional wisdom that it was a bad idea that hurt the Republicans was nothing but pure concern trolling.

          1. Oh, I know you didn’t. I was thinking of certain commenters *coughtbocaracough* and some Reason contributors, who really should have known better.

            1. BUT MUH POLLZ /SuderDerp

              Suder should have been suspended after his weeks-long temper tantrum.

    2. The response will be, “See, this is the fault of the insurance companies. They CHOSE to end these plans. They could have kept them, but they’re greedy and want the higher premiums forced into effect by…um, quick, look behind you.” runs away

  16. Holy shit. Pure unadulterated propaganda.

  17. Question, what are they supposed to say? They own this thing. So they can’t very well admit the truth. They can’t deny it is happening since it is happening to so many people. All they can do is just tell people that what is happening is really a good thing and hope for the best.

    1. Well, they could have done what we all were predicting: Blame the very notion of profit, and call for “Medicare for all” (Basically, single-payer nationalized health care, but if I had to guess, I think the progs will sell it as “Medicare for all” because Americans already understand Medicare and it polls well, as opposed to “single-payer” which may invite Euro horror stories). The fact that they aren’t is kind of confusing, honestly. It isn’t even an attempt to shield Obama, I think. All you would have had to say was, “Well, Obama wanted a public option originally, but removed it in order to try to compromise with the DIRTY RETHUGLICAN TEARORISTS!, because he’s such a pragmatic and centrist and awesome guy like that. But now, he’s realized that the only way to fix this problem is Medicare for All!” Maybe it’s too early in the game, maybe the Obama administration and their shills are too wedded to the idea of technocratic superiority, but it is fucking confusing to me.

      Our worst case scenario pivot has worked in fields like education, Medicare, and the housing crises. Weird that they aren’t doing it with health care. Maybe Blue Cross Blue Shield donates more to the Dems than I realized.

      1. It’s a long con by the Clintons. Hillary the Benevolent will give us Medicare for all

        1. It’s a long con by the Clintons. Hillary the Benevolent will give us Medicare for all

          If that were true, Hillary would have never joined the Obama administration and would have spent 2009 telling everyone how this thing was going to fail because it wasn’t single payer. Instead she went out and sold it like the rest of them did.

          If they want this to be a long con, they are going to have to wait for the generation who sold it to pass from the scene and a new generation of politicians who had nothing to do with it to rise up and tell the country that single payer is the only way. For right now, they are stuck defending this.

        2. Here was their long con NOVA.

          The plan was to get everyone buying health insurance coverage that was mandated by law and heavily subsidized to the poor. They thought everyone would love their new plans and the poor would love their subsidized health insurance so much that Dems would have a FDR like majority because of it and the law would become a third rail like Medicare and Social Security.

          Once they had that, they would then slowly expand the law and gradually nationalize the insurance companies and create a single payer system of government controlled insurance companies where everyone, rather than going to a government clinic, has their government issued insurance policy.

          That was the con. They thought this would work and that it would be popular. The fact that it is just a disaster and is so unpopular is not what they were planning on.

          1. Also, there’s no money for Medicare For All.

      2. They can’t do that. The reason is that doing that would require them admitting this is a failure. Okay, so the evil capitalists ruined everything. Why did you create this program that allowed them to do it?

        Years from now when there are Dems and Progs who were not around and never supported this thing, they will be able to say that. But not right now. And not when the people saying it were just three weeks ago calling anyone who wanted to delay it a terrorist. It just doesn’t work that way.

        You can’t use the “but we gave capitalism one last chance and it failed” immediately after your plan failed. That has to be done later by new people who never advocated for your plan or after people have forgotten it was your idea.

        The idea that they were going to do that now was always a fantasy on you guys’ part.

        1. That doesn’t mean some won’t try.

          1. No they won’t. They are not. They are going to have to pretend this thing is a success. It is their only option.

  18. too clever by half. If the new plans are so much better, what a PR bang would have come from people deciding for themselves to switch from their existing coverage to the new offerings. But that presumes actual improvement and it includes choice, the latter being anathema to proggies. When in doubt, force over choice every time.

  19. I’m a 30 year old man. And I’m too stupid to realize that I do need maternity coverage. Thanks unto our dear leader!

    1. I have a vasectomy, yay for maternity coverage!

      1. but what happens if a bullet strikes your testicles and the plants itself inside your wife’s womb? Huh? Huh? No answers for that?

        1. If a bullet strikes my testicles, I won’t care.

  20. All you need to know is that they consider ‘high deductible’ plans a terrible option for you.

    They are in fact the best types of plans. I have one myself. It’s about to get cancelled.

    1. No entirely true.

      ObamaCare does allow people under 30 to purchase catastrophic-only coverage.

      Yes, the geniuses who designed this scheme excluded the most fertile demographic segment — women under 30 — from the requirement to obtain contraceptive and maternity coverage.

      Presumably, a woman with cat-only coverage could upgrade her coverage if she became pregnant though. It’s kind of like buying flood insurance for your beach house when a hurricane is on the way.

      1. Damn my reading comprehension. When I saw “cat-only” I was thinking of it in the spinster sense. Why on earth do cat ladys need to insure their cats?

      2. Cat-only coverage?

        Next, ObamaCare will mandate coverage for your pets. Anything to jack up the premiums so that more money can be transferred to the sick.

        1. This will be the Dems next big idea to appeal to single women: free birth control for Mr. Wiggles!

    2. If that’s what they think, why the fuck are all of the new plans like $3,000 deductibles?

    3. All you need to know is that they consider ‘high deductible’ plans a terrible option for you.

      Then why are they offering me plans with deductibles that are twice as high as my current one?

  21. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FElipqE_Dl4

    Here is Ezra Klein speaking at the nutroots convention in 2008 explaining how Obama is going to have to lie and tell people they can keep their plans because otherwise Obama won’t be able to do what is really good for them.

    The entire beltway media establishment lied to the country about this. That fact should be pointed out over and over again. Screw Obama. He will be gone in three years. But sleaze like Klein will be around long after that lying about the next Dem big idea.

  22. Again, these journalists should tell us *now* which political promises about [insert topic] they won’t take seriously in the future. “Senator Blowhard is making exaggerated promises about this program we support, but be warned – when his lies are discovered we’ll make light of them an mock the people who obsess over the lies. The important thing is that the program is a good idea precisely *because* Sen. Blowhard is going to break his promise! It would be a worse program if he kept his promise!”

    1. Wow, Ezra Klein was way ahead of me.

      So I should say that *other* journalists should warn us of what the honest journalists are saying.

  23. Luckily, a comprehensive and affordable insurance policy is…now a basic right…

    “He does not understand the meaning of the word ‘right'”

    Ms. Sebelius never lost her cool in three-and-a-half hours of testimony, perhaps because she knows that once the computer problems and the bellowing die down, the country will be far better off.

    There’s no better proof of one’s cool being kept than answering a specific question with a perfunctory “whatever.”

    It’s time to tamp down the breathless indignation about these health plan cancellations. Many of the departing plans are being outlawed for good reason

    The “good reason” being the fact that satisfied customers do not usually set themselves off to shop around for more expensive and less desirable products. You know, like that light bulb prohibition thingy, rememeber? People have to be “nudged.”

  24. I actually saw an article in the LA Times attempting to say that it was “debunking a myth” of a lady having higher premiums. The upshot of the article was that the lady had a low enough income to get “hefty federal subsidies” (if she used the exchange) thus making it no longer a terrible deal for her, and actually a minor upgrade for her.

    Not much of a debunking, really. The cutoff for subsidies is low enough that the middle class, even lower middle class, can get hit quite hard for going slightly above it.

    1. Don’t the subsidied taper off when you get close to the limit?

      My understanding is that the subsidies are calculated so that you don’t spend more than 8% of your income on health insurance.

      So, basically, you are forced to spend 8% of you income on health insurance, because they will only subsidize the amount that goes over that.
      Or I could be mistaking the formula.

      It would be INSANE if it was a hard cutoff at $47,000 a year. The effective marginal tax rates would be huge.

  25. No Rick Ungar? Dissapoint.

  26. If health care is a right (would that be an inalienable right?) then we should also have a right to food, clothing, housing, and transportation. All of that should be provided by the government (our tax money) too because we are too stupid to provide it for ourselves. Hey wait? Isn’t that communism? Cool! Let the government collect all our money then pay it out to us as we need it, minus bureaucratic costs and mishandling. Work according to our ability and take according to our need–Congress to be exempt, of course–then we’ll have a perfect society. Yea!

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