Obamacare’s latest talking points: “Bad apples” and road apples
posted at 9:21 am on November 5, 2013 by Karl
To the surprise of no one, President Obama has been busy deflecting criticism of his “If you like your plan” lie by blaming insurance companies:
“Just shop around in the new marketplace,” he said. “You’re going to get a better deal.”
“Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad-apple insurers had free rein every single year to limit the care that you received, or used minor pre-existing conditions to jack up your premiums, or bill you into bankruptcy,” Obama said.
Similarly, the New York Times’ widely-mocked Sunday editorial (claiming that Obama “misspoke” when he promised Americans who liked their insurance that they could keep it) referred to existing plans as “Insurance Policies Not Worth Keeping.” In contrast, under O-care:
Starting next year, all plans sold in this country will be required to provide 10 essential benefits, including some, like mental health and substance abuse treatment and maternity and newborn care, that are not now part of many policies.
How do these new talking points stack up against reality? Not so well.
One of the few things Obamacare supporters like Josh Barro and opponents like Mark Steyn agree upon is that governments (state and federal) have had their mitts all over the health insurance industry for decades. By 2004, the high cost of health services regulation was responsible for more than seven million Americans lacking health insurance, or one in six of the average daily uninsured. Obama’s latest talking point tries to pretend otherwise.
As Robert Laszewski, president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates (an expert even acknowledged by Ezra Klein and his ilk), points out, individual health insurance policies have been regulated for decades by the states. Almost every state in the union has dozens of health insurance mandates (Texas has 62 such mandates). The most common mandates, adopted in almost every state, cover mammography, maternity stays, mental health parity, and alcohol & substance abuse — i.e., the sorts of mandates the NYT thinks are so revolutionary. (Incidentally, Laszewski is one of those who likes his plan and can’t keep it — and by no stretch of the imagination could it be called “junk” insurance. But I digress.)
When the President refers to these “bad apples,” to whom is he referring? No doubt there are some; it is not difficult to find anecdotes on the ‘net. But why didn’t Obama name names? Doesn’t he have a list, much like Joe McCarthy?
The first major story on mass insurance cancellations was published by Kaiser Health News (and seen widely via NBC’s site). That story had a list:
Florida Blue, for example, is terminating about 300,000 policies, about 80 percent of its individual policies in the state. Kaiser Permanente in California has sent notices to 160,000 people – about half of its individual business in the state. Insurer Highmark in Pittsburgh [a non-profit, the largest health insurer in Pennsylvania and West Virgina -K] is dropping about 20 percent of its individual market customers, while Independence Blue Cross, the major insurer in Philadelphia, is dropping about 45 percent.
Other stories detailing Obamacare’s sticker shock refer to Humana and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. And if you look at the letters posted at MyCancellation, it appears most are from various branches of Blue Cross/Blue Shield, along with Aetna, United Healthcare, and the like.
In short, Obama’s latest talking point largely depends on convincing people that Blue Cross/Blue Shield is a “junk” insurer. But the 7-16 million people being kicked off their plans (not to mention their families and friends) know Blue Cross is not a “bad apple.” And as much as Obama’s senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer might wish otherwise, neither he nor his boss will have much luck painting United Healthcare as a villain after paying $1.2 million on behalf of stage IV cancer survivor Edie Sundby. Obama’s “bad apples” whopper will fail as badly as “If you like your plan,” because both are disconnected from the reality of the situation.
And what of Obama’s claim that people are going to get a “better deal” in “the new marketplace,” once the Administration gets it to work? As Jake Tapper (via the Allahpundit — I am such a suck-up) reported, the Obama administration’s Obamacare ‘War Room’ is concerned consumers will be disappointed by sticker shock and limited choice in “the new marketplace.” The Administration’s fears are well-founded. Again, Laszewski explains the problems in all their wonkery, with examples, summarized as follows:
Consumers will be faced with a dilemma — accept *** lower benefits and limited provider networks for the lower prices (benefit shock) or buy a more expensive plan and pay the difference out of pocket (rate shock).
Moreover, as Ed Morrissey (again — I am such a suck-up) notes, these problems ultimately may affect up to 93 million Americans, if the employer mandate ever goes into effect.
Of course, none of this is to say the health insurance sector, particularly the individual market, was not in need of reform. You can completely disagree with Obamacare as policy and still recognize that. However, what has become impossible for public — and even the media — to ignore in the past month is that the Administration was profoundly dishonest in how it campaigned for Obamacare. The President’s latest talking points, even if echoed by the New York Times, demonstrate only that the bait-and-switch continues.