health insurance

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.

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Examples of Obamacare plan cancellations and premium increases are getting tons of media coverage, though you rarely hear the whole story. Some people losing their plans have insurance with huge gaps, the kind that leave you exposed to financial ruin when you get sick.

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Stories of real-life Obamacare “rate shock” have revived an old debate. Previously, health insurers could charge women higher premiums than they charged men. Insurers could also exclude maternity benefits. Obamacare prohibits those practices and conservatives are angry. Why should men have to pay higher insurance prices for services they will never use directly?

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Here are two facts that have gotten very little attention amid all the controversy about insurance plan cancellations and “rate shock.”Fact one: Thanks to Obamacare’ subsidies, several million people now have the opportunity to get private insurance at essentially no cost.Fact two: Those ultra-cheap policies are pretty threadbare. They might keep people out of bankruptcy, but they still would leave beneficiaries exposed to thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses a year.

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Administration officials are saying that healthcare.gov will be “functioning smoothly” by the end of November. And maybe they are right, in which case all the fuss about broken websites will become a historical footnote.But what if administration officials are wrong? What if it’s December and Obamacare’s official online portals are still barely functional? 

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The Obamacare online saga may be reaching the phase where media and political hysteria is out of proportion to the actual problem. A case in point is the controversy over enrollment numbers.

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Republicans spent Tuesday highlighting Obamacare’s opening day glitches. Democrats spent Tuesday highlighting Obamacare’s opening day successes.Both spoke the truth. One truth matters more.

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Obamacare’s new insurance marketplaces are scheduled to open for business on October 1, just a few days from now. For all the attention that date has received, it is less important than it might seem. Because new coverage won’t actually begin until January 1, most people looking to get insurance on their own won’t start shopping until the end of the year. But October 1 is still a milestone.

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President Obama, President Clinton, and Senator Ted Cruz all spent a lot of time talking about Obamacare on Tuesday.

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October 1 is less than two weeks away. And if you have followed the coverage of Obamacare, then you have heard a lot about that date.

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