By U-T San Diego Editorial Board • U-T San Diego
In fall 2013, there was a political firestorm after millions of Americans were told their individual 2014 health insurance policies would be canceled because they didn’t provide the full range of coverage mandated by the Affordable Care Act. This prompted President Obama to unilaterally delay by one year the requirement that individual health plans be compliant with Obamacare. Most states — but not California — went along with this decision.
That year is nearly up, and the White House has ruled out another delay. Otherwise, the administration is waiting until after the Nov. 4 elections to say what 2015 holds for the millions of Americans with noncompliant individual health insurance. It won’t even comment on what’s ahead in the 32 states where the federal government runs the insurance exchange programs. (California runs its own.)
Nevertheless, most evidence indicates millions of Americans with individual policies are likely to lose them in coming months — this time for good. Semanticists may claim these policies haven’t been changed, just amended. But Americans facing much higher premiums and co-pays and fewer options on doctors aren’t likely to agree that this is what President Obama meant when he said, “If you like your plan, you can keep it.”
And this may not be the biggest coming tempest over the ACA. Although there is a crazy quilt of exceptions and loopholes, businesses with more than 100 employees generally have to be compliant beginning Jan. 1, offering broad coverage to at least 70 percent of workers. These companies employ more than 75 million people in the U.S. No one disputes that the vast majority of the coverage they now offer is noncompliant.
So barring some new unilateral rewrite of the law, tens of millions of people are either going to have much costlier company-provided health insurance in 2015 or are going to have to use government insurance exchanges to get coverage as businesses abandon the costly benefit and pay token fines instead.
Some states will have much more reasonable increases than others. But for the most part, we’re about to see several weeks in which millions of Americans acquaint themselves with a lie every bit as bad as, “If you like your plan, you can keep it.”
That lie held that health insurance with a broad range of mandated coverage would somehow be cheaper than more basic plans. Before its 2010 passage, the president repeatedly asserted the ACA would “cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year.”
At least the coming paroxysms over this whopper will drown out recent media claims that Obamacare isn’t a big issue anymore because of its alleged success. That’s not how it looks to disgruntled doctors, to pollsters or to Democratic candidates who shun the president.
And if you’re one of the millions of Americans likely to lose your health plan in coming months, the idea that the Affordable Care Act is a success will seem like a joke — a painful and costly one.