Obama Falsely Claims that Forced Cancellations Will Mean Better Plans in the Exchanges
By Jennifer Popik, JD, Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics
Public frustration and anger over Obamacare is mounting. Despite numerous and repeated assurances from President Obama that if you liked your insurance plan you could keep it, millions of Americans are receiving notices that their current health care plans have been cancelled. And despite presidential claims that those whose policies are cancelled will get “better care” in the health insurance exchanges, the insurance plans available there commonly restrict access to specialists and advanced treatment facilities.
The Wall Street Journal’s Colleen Mccain Nelson, in a November 7th article entitled, “Obama Apologizes for Insurance Cancellations” reports,
“About 15.4 million people—about 5% of the population—are covered by individual health plans. Industry experts have said many of them will see their policies terminated by the end of the year as insurers switch to plans that comply with the health law.”
Over one million policies have been cancelled in California alone, according to the state’s insurance commissioner, as reported by CBS Sacramento/AP on November 12, 2013. In North Dakota, Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm reported on November 8 that 36,000 people in the state will have their policies canceled under the Obama health law. In contrast, the three insurance companies participating in the North Dakota exchange reported only 30 enrollments in the exchange plans to date.
Over this past weekend, in response to public outrage over the thousands of cancellation notices, President Obama issued a pseudo-apology. The president told NBC, “I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me.”
However, in the same breath, the President claimed that those whose plans are cancelled will be “better off”. As reported by the Washington Post’s Zachary A. Goldfarb and Scott Wilson in a piece titled, “President Obama apologizes to Americans who are losing their health insurance”
“Obama defended the law several times over the course of the NBC interview, saying many of the people now receiving cancellation notices were in ‘subpar plans’ and would probably benefit from new options — although they aren’t able to see them now because of continued problems with the Web site HealthCare.gov. “The majority of folks will end up being better off, of course. Because the Web site’s not working right, they don’t necessarily know it right” now, he said. ‘Keep in mind that most of the folks who …got these cancellation letters, they’ll be able to get better care at the same cost or cheaper in these new marketplaces.’”
In fact, there is mounting evidence that insurance plans available in the exchanges are restricting access to specialists and top notch hospital systems.
Insurance providers are feeling forced under the provisions of the law to offer very limited options. In an October 21, 2013, piece entitled “Big insurers avoid many state health exchanges,” USA Today reporter Annika McGinnis reported
“In New Hampshire, the exchange has just Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which greatly reduces the number of hospital options, says State Sen. Andy Sanborn. Since more than 90% of doctors are affiliated with specific hospitals, the new plans will also exclude many doctors, he added. Plans don’t include the capital’s Concord Hospital, and the next-closest hospital uses Concord doctors, Sanborn said. So, he said, people will have to drive to a third hospital an hour away. They’ll even have to call an ambulance from a far-away hospital to pick them up, he said.”
This problem is not limited to New Hampshire. Earlier this fall, the Health Research Institute of PricewaterhouseCoopers consulting company reported that insurers passed over major medical centers when selecting providers in California, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as other states.
Late last month in a story titled “Obamacare: Fewer options for many,” CNN’s Jen Christensen reported that
“In New York, NYU will accept only a minority of the plans. In Los Angeles, UCLA medical centers will accept a couple. In Atlanta, Emory has limited the number of plans it will take. Academic medical centers are often pricier because they tackle the more complex cases. WellPoint, a Blue Cross Blue Shield insurer offering policies in 14 states, is narrowing its networks in many markets….”
While insurers are moving to make their plans less expensive at the cost of sacrificing access to doctors and specialists, there is the real possibility that plans that choose not to limit access will be forced to do so under the Federal Regulations governing the exchanges.
There are a set of restrictions written into the health law with the effect that consumers may only choose plans offered by insurers who do not allow their customers to spend what state bureaucrats deem an “excessive or unjustified” amount for their health insurance.
Under the Federal health law, state insurance commissioners are to recommend to their state exchanges the exclusion of “particular health insurance issuers … based on a pattern or practice of excessive or unjustified premium increases.” Not only will the exchanges exclude policies from being offered in an exchange when government authorities do not agree with their premiums, but the exchanges will even exclude insurers whose plans outside the exchange offer consumers the ability to reduce the danger of treatment denial by paying what those government authorities consider an “excessive or unjustified” amount.
This evidently is creating a “chilling effect,” deterring insurers who hope to be able to compete within the exchanges from offering adequately funded plans that do not drastically limit care even outside of them. The result will be that even outside the exchanges consumers will find it difficult to obtain health insurance that offers adequate and unrationed health care.
Documentation for this can be found at www.nrlc.org/uploads/medethics/LifeatRisk112012.pdf
When the government limits what can be charged for health insurance, it restricts what people are allowed to pay for medical treatment. While everyone would prefer to pay less–or nothing–for health care (or anything else), government price controls prevent access to lifesaving medical treatment that costs more to supply than the prices set by the government.
With the new exchanges going into effect, it is important to continue to educate friends and neighbors about the dangers the law governing them poses in restricting what Americans can spend to save their own lives and the lives of their families.
Note: the abortion-related provisions dealing with the state exchanges can be found here:www.nrlc.org/AHC/index.html