The rollout of the Affordable Care Act has been rocky and has included an apology from the Health and Human Services Secretary and some backtracking from the president over previous promises.
In numerous speeches since signing the legislation in 2010, the president promised Americans his signature legislation wouldn’t mean they would lose their current insurance, saying “if you like your current plan, you can keep it.”
But that hasn’t turned out to be true in some cases.
On Wednesday, nearly five weeks into the open enrollment period, Obama had to reposition his claim in a speech in Boston.
“Anyone peddling the notion that insurers are cancelling people’s plan without mentioning that almost all the insurers are encouraging people to join better plans with the same carrier, and stronger benefits and stronger protections, while others will be able to get better plans with new carriers through the marketplace, and that many will get new help to pay for these better plans and make them actually cheaper -- if you leave that stuff out, you’re being grossly misleading, to say the least,” Obama said.
But the fact remains, that hundreds of thousands of people who may have very well liked their plans are being dropped from coverage. Earlier this week, an NBC Investigation reported that the administration knew that between 40% and 67% of individual policyholders would lose their coverage under the law’s new requirements.
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“This was a naïve assumption and in the administration’s defense I think at the time [in 2009] that many people would keep their plans,” says Devon Herrick, senior analyst at the National Center for Policy Analysis. “If you like your plan you can keep it, unless the plan is not profitable [for insurers] or legal [under the new ACA guidelines]. Those caveats were not included in that promise.”
Under the new law, all insurance plans must cover 10 essential health benefits including, maternity care, prescription medicine costs and ambulatory services, which, in many cases, have driven up coverage prices. Kaiser Health reported that in certain states like Florida and California, hundreds of thousands of people were being dropped from their current plans, and not everyone is being picked up by new insurers.
Obama also told Americans in 2007 at the Take Back America Forum that the ACA would save families $2,500 on average annually, a number he has repeated continually over the years. Herrick says that number seems to be “created out of thin air.” Due to the increased benefits for all approved health-care plans, costs are going up for many, unless they are eligible for a subsidy. Subsidies are available for those making up to 400% of the federal poverty level, which is $45 annually for an individual and around $94,000 for a family of four.
“The ACA was heavily influenced by public health advocates, saying that ‘everyone should have this level of benefits,’” Herrick says.
Finally, amidst the Healthcare.gov website’s rocky rollout on Oct. 1, Obama said that purchasing coverage would be as simple as “buying a TV on Amazon.” While the exchange was meant to be a one-stop-shop for comparing and buying plans, high traffic volumes, data errors and repeated glitches have made this statement a stretch to say the least, Herrick says.
“The example we often hear of is HealthInsurance.com, a Silicon Valley startup from 15 years ago that made comparing policies online and shopping for coverage easy—they signed up a few million people over the years,” Herrick says. “It worked great, but that is not the exchange. The reason the exchange is having such issues is that it is so complex, they are trying to create a one-stop-shop, and that is a tall order.”