By Grace-Marie Turner
The Obama administration is clearly in full-defense mode over the rolling disaster of ObamaCare, and it is making every effort to deflect criticism to others. But the deflections won’t hold because they are not based on fact. Three examples:
It’s the insurance companies’ fault: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and White House officials are blaming health insurance companies for dropping millions of individual health insurance policies.
It’s not our fault, say Presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett and Press Secretary Jay Carney. Jarrett tweeted: “FACT: Nothing in #Obamacare forces people out of their health plans. No change is required unless insurance companies change existing plans.”
In fact, it is the administration’s fault. The health law says you can keep your health insurance policy only if it is “grandfathered” and you have kept the same plan with virtually no changes since March 23, 2010, when ObamaCare was enacted. Any policy that was purchased since March 24, 2010, cannot be grandfathered and must be replaced by a plan that does comply with the long list of mandated benefits detailed in regulations issued by the Obama administration.
The old plans were “substandard” anyway: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the health law eliminates “substandard policies that don’t provide minimum services.”
To be ObamaCare compliant, health plans must cover 10 categories of mandated benefits: ambulatory patient services; emergency services; hospitalization; maternity and newborn care; mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment; prescription drugs; rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices; laboratory services; preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management; and pediatric services, including oral and vision care.
This is truly Cadillac coverage. In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services wrote in a policy brief: “62 percent of enrollees do not have coverage for maternity services; 34 percent of enrollees do not have coverage for substance abuse services; 18 percent of enrollees do not have coverage for mental health services; 18 percent of enrollees do not have coverage for mental health services.” The White House had to have known that the millions of people who had these policies would lose them when ObamaCare took effect.
But private citizens are pushing back: Joe Seiley, a resident of El Cajon, California, wrote to his local paper, U-T San Diego: “If my policy was substandard and did not provide the services my family needed, I would not have purchased it, or would have dropped it myself. I believe there must be much more transparency and honesty in the true costs of the ACA, both in terms of money and freedom.”
As Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-TN, told Sec. Sebelius during the House hearing on Wednesday: “I will remind you: some people like to drive a Ford and not a Ferrari, and some people like to drink out of a red solo cup and not a crystal stem. You’re taking away their choice.”
The market was the “Wild West” before ObamaCare: Again, not true. When Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-NM, asked Sebelius how “volatile” the individual-insurance market was before ObamaCare, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said “it wasn’t a marketplace at all” and that it was “unprotected [and] unregulated.” Jay Carney said in an earlier press briefing that the individual health insurance market “has been like the Wild West.”
That is simply not true and, as a former Kansas Insurance Commissioner, she should have known better. One of the reasons that individually-purchased health insurance has been so expensive in many states is because the states so strictly regulate these policies. They also must be viable policies covering doctor, hospital, and other medical bills and offered by companies that are financially sound and can pay the medical bills they are obligated to pay.
Even states that have used a light regulatory hand have extensive insurance regulations and benefit mandates, totaling more than 2,100 in all 50 states in the latest count.
In addition, even before ObamaCare, there were thousands of pages of federal law and regulations that apply to the individual insurance market, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
These latest White House deflections will not hold. ObamaCare is taking on water, and people now are finding out for themselves why this law is so very wrong for America.
Posted on Forbes October 31, 2013