The House just passed Fred Upton’s bill. He calls it the “Keep Your Health Plan Act,” because its ostensible purpose is to make sure people losing their existing health plans can keep them. It might or might not have that effect. But an equally accurate description would be “Go Back to the Old Lousy Health Care System Act.” Under its provisions, insurers could keep denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, continue selling policies that have huge gaps, and so on.
President Obama on Thursday announced a new administration initiative designed to help that small portion of Americans whose insurers are cancelling existing policies.It’s not clear how much impact it will actually have, which means many (and probably most) of the people losing coverage aren’t likely to get those same policies back. But it appears the plan does minimal damage to the rest of Obamacare, which means the millions of people about to get insurance for the first time—or get cheaper, more comprehensive coverage than they had before—will still get those benefits.
Five reasons a Congressional fix will be destructive
House Republicans have rallied behind the cause of people getting insurance cancellation notices—and, on Friday, they will vote on a measure that will purportedly allow these people to keep their current policies. The bill might not work as intended, but it might well have another set of consequences. It would allow insurer companies to keep discriminating against the sick, while selling people policies that leave them exposed to crippling bills in case of serious illness.
The Department of Health and Human Services just released enrollment figures for Obamacare in October. How you assess them depends entirely upon your baseline and expectations.Here’s the quick summary:
Good news: There's a "side door" into Obamacare via insurers' sites. Bad news: It relies on the same terrible information technology.
Bill Clinton has been one of Obamacare’s most effective advocates—the "Secretary of Explaining Things," as President Obama famously called him. But in a new interview already getting attention and sure to get more, Clinton didn't explain things very well. He made a statement that's likely to create some misimpressions about the possibilities of health care reform, while giving the administration and its allies yet another political headache. But maybe it's also an opportunity to have a serious conversation about the law's tradeoffs—the one that should have happened a while ago.
The real detail to watch is still to come
The Department of Health and Human Services will release initial enrollment statistics for Obamacare sometime this week, perhaps as early as Tuesday. But the disputes have started already. Christopher Weaver and Louise Radnofsky of the Wall Street Journal are reporting that no more than 50,000 people successful enrolled in insurance plans via healthcare.gov last month.
Today it’s a few hundred thousand people. By next year, it will be at least a few million. Their health insurance status is changing dramatically: What they have in 2014 and beyond will look nothing like what they had in 2013 and before. For many of these people, the difference will be hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year. In a few cases, it may be the difference between life and death.
In an interview Thursday with NBC News' Chuck Todd, President Obama apologized to Americans receiving cancellation letters from insurers—and promised to investigate whether his administration could do something to help them. The apology is appropriate. Obama made sweeping promises that he should have qualified or at least explained in more detail. While most people will get to keep their plans next year, some won’t.