In an effort to cynically score political points, the Republicans have taken up the cause of people who have received health insurance "cancellation" notices. The problem is that the Republicans aren't helping these people, they are exploiting them. They're peddling a "fix" that will stick consumers with lousy insurance policies, put the insurance companies back in charge of our health care and deceive people who deserve a straight answer about what's going on with their health coverage.
If you're one of the people who received a notice, it's unsettling and confusing to say the least -- and you don't need a political party to play politics with your life. You need to know the truth and learn the available options.
People are receiving cancellation notices because they were sold health insurance policies that provide bare-bones coverage and expose them to financial ruin if they get sick or injured. Insurance companies sold these plans knowing full well that consumers could not keep them after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) standards are fully implemented on Jan. 1. The insurance companies didn't tell their clients that they couldn't keep the plans they sold them, and they certainly didn't tell them that the plans were junk. Now the Republicans want to allow the industry to continue to sell these policies for another year in the name of letting people keep the plans "they like." This is hypocrisy and politics at its worst, not to mention terrible policy.
There are roughly 15 million Americans who buy health plans in the individual market, and they represent 5 percent of people with private insurance. About half of them got cancellation notices, which naturally leaves people anxious to find out what they'll do next year.
Instead of passing a law allowing insurers to keep selling bad policies that provide little for their premium money, we should tell people what their coverage options are and how much better they'll do under the ACA. Because the enrollment web site HealthCare.gov has yet to work properly, most folks don't realize they will save money and get better insurance if they shop in the new insurance marketplaces and take advantage of generous instant tax credits that will drastically cut their premiums.
People can save a lot of money when they buy their insurance through the online marketplaces: Seventeen million people will qualify for tax credits to reduce the cost of their insurance. As many as 7 million people may have no premium costs at all. Six of 10 uninsured Americans will pay $100 or less in monthly premiums. While it sucks to get canceled, the vast majority of those folks will see that getting coverage through the ACA marketplaces is a better deal.
The GOP-led legislation is bad public policy. It will disrupt the insurance market and make things worse now and in the future. You can't mend our broken health insurance system if millions of people can opt out of participating in it. That's how we got into this mess in the first place.
Allowing inferior insurance plans to exist alongside quality ACA policies will destroy the economic foundation of the law -- the idea that financial risk must be spread and shared -- and give our health care back to the insurance companies. Nothing could be worse for the health and the pocketbooks of everyday Americans.
For example, the Republican proposal would prompt younger, healthier people to opt out of enrolling in the marketplace plans, meaning the ACA policies will cover mostly older and sicker people who are more costly to insure. As a result, marketplace premiums would spike and millions of Americans would lose out on health coverage they can afford. People would be denied insurance or charged sharply higher premiums because of their medical history. Consumers would be at the mercy of the health insurance companies. That's not why we enacted health reform. America reformed our health insurance system so everyone could have insurance with real benefits -- not benefits that are only revealed to be phony in the middle of a medical crisis. We did it based on the simple principle that we all do better when we all do better.
The Republican bill would be a disaster for consumers. As we learned during the drive to pass the ACA, junk policies cause nothing but trouble. There are millions of stories of bankruptcy filings, homes and jobs lost, college educations abandoned and dreams deferred because someone with fake insurance got sick and was overwhelmed by medical bills. We can't go back to those days.
The GOP is using overhyped cancellation stories as a pretext to destroy the ACA, a law they have attacked with a single-minded fervor never before seen in American politics. When the Republicans' bill, H.R. 3350, reaches the floor, it will be the House GOP's 46th vote to repeal Obamacare.
Any fixes to the Affordable Care Act should be judged by whether they help people and improve the law. The Republican-led proposal does neither.