On Keeping Your Health Insurance

President Obama: “If you like your insurance plan, you can keep it. Period.”
Americans: “We lost our health insurance plans!”
President Obama: “Those weren’t real health insurance plans, they were scams.”
Americans: “But we liked being scammed!”

I don’t understand why the Administration is not doing a better job messaging. Most of America seems to be under the impression people are losing cheap, quality health care plans, when what Obamacare is actually doing is shutting down scams that looked like health insurance, but never even paid back the cost of premiums, ever.

It’s not as if the information isn’t out there. Consumer Reports described the plans in question as “[not] real health insurance at all.” Daily Kos has done a great job following up on reports of people who claimed their costs were soaring, and found that Obamacare is actually getting them better plans at lower prices, and explaining how insurance companies alarmist cries “Obamacare is shutting down your plan” are pretty much–surprise–a scam.

There’s also been a glut of headlines about soaring premiums, which sounds terrible until one considers the actual cost of health insurance, which includes deductibles, copays, coverage limits, and out-of-pocket fees. Almost without exception, even accounting for higher premiums, Obamacare is saving people money and getting them better insurance. The media, right-wing and otherwise, is taking too much information from the Insurance companies, whose exploitation of Americans is the thing Obamacare set out to limit, and the GOP, who oppose anything remotely related to Obama or the Democrats.

Shortly after Obamacare took effect, the GOP established a hotline for people to call if they felt they were hurt by the new law. Plenty of people called, of course. Fox has been promoting the number like they’re running a telethon. And because fact-checking is one of those things they leave to the “lamestream media,” the right-wing has disseminated these stories about people being harmed, when in fact the law is protecting them. It’s as if Obama put an end to deceptive direct-mail scams, and the Republicans are crying out “those Americans may already have been winners!”

Naturally, the rest of the media has largely gone along with this narrative, because someone at some point convince them they are not permitted to ask questions. The American media is a weathervane, turning in whatever direction the prevailing wind is blowing–and so instead of offering guidance to the public, they reinforce whatever myth and urban legend has taken hold. Basically the media is your Facebook feed, and every once in a while somebody links to Snopes.

Now it’s entirely possible a few people are losing good plans. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not assuming the cases researched by Kos and Consumer Reports are representative of 100% of the public. But while changes to the law are warranted to protect those people, they are not representative. All this talk about “grandfathering plans” is frightening, because a blanket grandfather clause would permit all of those exploitative “junk health insurance” plans (to use Consumer Reports’ term) to continue tricking people into paying for something that won’t ever help them, ever.

I understand the difficulty of conveying nuance in a political argument, but sometimes I get the sense the Obama people have stopped trying.

Personally, I think the President grossly underestimated Americans’ ability to like garbage.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Chris, thank you for writing this – the public needs to know that the plans being cancelled right now were actually costing them money without providing enough services.

    However, where I think Obamacare was a bit short-sighted was in the requirements that businesses provide healthcare for anyone working longer than 30? hours. I’ve read a few stories where people have had their hours cut because their employers couldn’t or didn’t want to buy health insurance for them. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    • With the important disclaimer that I have not exhaustively researched this and can therefore easily be wrong, my impression is that the “cutting of hours” is largely manufactured hoopla. The indications that hours would be cut come mostly from informal polls by the Chamber of Commerce, which is anti-Obama, of business-owners who tend to err conservative. Lots of people responded to Obamacare by declaring they would cut worker hours or positions, but the studies that have been done show no such trend.

      Case in point: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/06/obamacare-worker-hours_n_3882403.html

      By the way, James Fallows at the Atlantic posted a long (long!) but fascinating transcript of a months-long email conversation with an outspoken (and, IMO, clearly unstable) business owner and critic of Obamacare, whose railing included a lot of (again, by my estimation) empty threats about firing his staff and closing his doors. It’s here: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/10/its-time-return-of-the-atlas-shrugged-guy/280641/

      Personally I think the 30-hour cutoff is actually pretty clever. The traditional cutoff between part-time wage workers and full-time staff is 27.5 hours, because that’s where most benefits kick in. Generally speaking, the kinds of employees companies hire at 28+ hours weekly are skilled workers they want to hold onto–often because they are investing in training for these staff members. Cutting hours for skilled workers will generally lead to the resignation of those workers, and the kind of people who will settle for a job without benefits aren’t the ones you want. The same logic that’s oft-applied to CEO pay (“We have to pay a bajillion dollars if we want competence!”) works, to a much lesser extent, for full-time workers in lower tiers.

      I won’t be surprised if there’s a period of a year or two where companies make good on their threats, just because I think there are enough Obama opponents who will be willing to put their money where their mouths are–but in five to ten years, I think Obamacare won’t even be a factor in staffing decisions. And I do think it will still be around.

  2. Obamacare is a policy which is implemented to make sure people of America gets proper health care but to some internal politics it has to go through various insurance companies. Basically Obama care is divided into three legs first requires that people can’t be turned away from it, while other requires everyone is to insured under the same umbrella cover and the third is for making it easier for people who can’t afford it. At the same time the feds declare some roll out troubles which need to be fixed as soon as possible.

  3. I will not repeat what I think of the different governement (in this case amerca) But when economic market make the dance I don’t think we are no more in a democracy. Abother exemple at Tje State is the law that Obama wanted to made approved and wo was ruined by the NRA lobby…

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