President Barack Obama has tried to reframe the narrative on his fledgling healthcare reform law by claiming that insurance companies offered lackluster health plans that didn’t cover much, leaving many Americans underinsured.
His administration’s paternalistic answer to this was to require that all insurance companies certain benefits, writing “grandfathered plan” regulations so strictly, that, eventually, all plans would meet the law’s requirements. Which is why millions of Americans are losing their current health insurance coverage, proving that President Obama lied when he said Americans could keep their plan under the law.
It’s true that 16% of Americans are underinsured, roughly 30 million people. But Obamacare’s minimum coverage requirements, coupled with the grandfather regulations, will cause some 93 million people to lose or see disruptions in their coverage, making these regulations unnecessarily broad.
Even people with very good, comprehensive health insurance plans are losing their coverage, forcing them to purchase an expensive, government-approved plan from the health insurance exchange. That’s something that two supporters of President Obama recently learned.
Lee Hammack and JoEllen Brothers, a married couple living in California, lost their health insurance coverage, according to report this week from ProPublica. The couple is described as volunteers for President Obama’s campaign and donors to Organizing for America, a group run by the Democratic Party.
The plan the couple has, purchased from Kaiser Permanente, cost them $550 per month and, as Charles Ornstein wrote, “carried a $4,000 deductible per person, a $40 copay for doctor visits, a $150 emergency room visit fee and 30 percent coinsurance for hospital stays after the deductible,” in addition to a $5,600 maximum for out-of-pocket costs.
Unfortunately, Kaiser canceled their plan because it wasn’t compliant with Obamacare’s requirements. The alternative, in which the insurer automatically enrolled them, is a plan with higher annual deductibles (from $4,000 to $4,500, each), a higher maximum for out-of-pocket expenses ($5,600 to $6,350), and a much more expensive premium (from $550/month to $1,300).
Ornstein noted that the couple tried looked on the exchange in their state, Covered California, for a cheaper alternative. They didn’t have much luck. “When they shopped around and looked for a different plan on California’s new health insurance marketplace, Covered California,” he wrote, “the cheapest one was $975, with hefty deductibles and copays.”
The couple, according to ProPublica, doesn’t currently qualify for federal subsidies to purchase on the exchange. They are actually considering making less money and/or adjusting their income to get in a position where they can get assistance, which is something Obamacare supporters have encouraged people to do.
The couple told ProPublica that they are “hurt” that President Obama lied to them, though they say that they are “not changing [their] views because of this situation.”
This isn’t the first story of an Obama supporter getting stuck with higher health insurance premiums because of the healthcare law, and it surely won’t be the last. But it’s a reality that many Americans now face, regardless of their political views. Even with subsidies and increased deductibles, many are seeing higher premiums than they were paying for coverage before the law.
One thing President Obama has gotten right in recent weeks is that this law is indeed more than just a glitchy website.