Sunday, August 16, 2009

Can You Keep Your Health Insurance Under Obamacare?

President Barack Obama keeps repeating words very close to “If you like your current healthcare plan, you can keep it.” His surrogates keep repeating this, too. Linda Douglass, for example, paraphrasing him on the White House blog, saying

For the record, the President has consistently said that if you like your insurance plan, your doctor, or both, you will be able to keep them.
It's one of the big selling points in his campaign to sell his healthcare reform plan.
[Yes, I know — Strictly speaking, none of the healthcare bills in the Congress are "Obama's healthcare plan". Obama hasn't provided any plan. But he has made it clear he supports HB3200, the healthcare bill that Pelosi brought out of the Waxman committee and got passed by the House of Representatives just before the August recess. One can argue about whether that support makes the bill Obama's plan, but I will use that shorthand here.

I also think it's funny to hear the Democrats piss & moan about calling this “Obama's plan” when even Democrat icon and former Senator Tom Daschle, Obama's original choice as Secretary of Health and Human Services, describes it that way.]

So it keeps getting repeated, but is it true? Strictly speaking, yes, it is true. It is also a complete fraud.

There is nothing in the current version of HB3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, that says you will be required to change your health insurance. That's why the repeated statement by President Obama and the other proponents of the bill is true, strictly speaking.

But, as is so often the case in Washington, that is not the whole story. Just look at Section 102 on page 16, entitled “Protecting the Choice to Keep Current Coverage”. In Section 102(a)(1)(A), a subsection of the “Limitation on New Enrollment” it says

“Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day” of the year the legislation becomes law.
But the bill goes on. Section 102(a)(2) says your company can't change any of the benefits, and Section 102(b) says your plan must meet all of the bill's requirements within five years. So your company can't reduce your benefits, or increase them, without dumping you on the “public option”, yet it has to make all the changes demanded by the Congressional Democrats. How long do you think it will be before some bureaucrat decides those changes, as implemented, void your “grandfathered” plan and terminate your coverage?

But that's not the insidious part. That “Limitation on New Enrollment” in Section 102(a)(1)(A) says your company's new hires are legally prohibited from getting the healthcare plan you have. They will end up on the “public option”. In addition, anyone who retires or moves to another company leaves your healthcare plan, and no one is allowed to be added. How long can your healthcare insurance provider continue offering your plan under those conditions? Clearly not very long. Probably not as long as the five year “grace period” in Section 102(b). The result:

So we can all keep our coverage, just as promised — with, of course, exceptions: Those who currently have private individual coverage won’t be able to change it. Nor will those who leave a company to work for themselves be free to buy individual plans from private carriers.
The government will not order us to change our health insurance — it will just make it impossible for us to keep it.

So President Obama's statement is true, strictly speaking, but is also a complete fraud. And we're all screwed if this bill passes.

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