WaPo: Three pinocchios for the White House trying to pin cancellations on insurance companies
posted at 12:41 pm on November 7, 2013 by Erika Johnsen
In their never-ceasing effort to redirect the blame for the already incoming consequences of their signature legislative achievement, the White House has tried to dismiss the individual insurance plan cancellations that millions of Americans have lately been receiving as the underhanded work of insurance companies (and indeed, certain Democrats are urging the administration to double down hard on that convenient demonization tactic).
Last week, the president chided “bad apple” insurance companies as the rightful recipients of these dropped Americans’ ire, rather than ObamaCare itself. “Nothing in #Obamacare forces people out of their health plans. No change is required unless insurance companies change existing plans,” tweeted Valerie Jarrett, while Jay Carney insisted that “What is not the case is if your insurer basically threw you off that plan by telling you after a year or two that it was changing and said, here’s your new option because your plan has changed, that that new plan is grandfathered in, because how could that be? You can’t grandfather in a plan in 2010 that didn’t come into existence into 2012 or 2011.”
…Yes, I’m pretty sure that was supposed to be borderline nonsensical, but the gist of it is that insurance companies should be blamed for ever having offered plans that the august wisdom of the administration deems “substandard,” and that no plans cemented in before the law passed can be dropped. In his fact-check at the Washington Post, however, Glenn Kessler has a few pinocchios to pass out, mainly because “the March 23, 2010, effective date is so obscure that likely few people in the individual market paid much attention to it”:
We’ve noted before the tight regulations that the Department of Health and Human Services wrote while implementing the law, which affected “grandfathered plans,” those obtained before the law was signed on March 23, 2010. That’s what Carney is referring to when he claims that insurance companies are taking away benefits — though that is just one of a myriad of provisions that could affect a plan’s grandfathered status.
But how many people actually would have kept their individual plans that long in the first place? HHS, when it drafted the interim rules, estimated that between 40 and 67 percent of policies in the individual market are in effect for less than one year. “These estimates assume that the policies that terminate are replaced by new individual policies, and that these new policies are not, by definition, grandfathered,” the rules noted. (See page 34553.) …
Translated, that means about 95 percent of people now getting cancellation notices likely purchased their plan after the effective date of the law. …
During the drafting of the health-care law, insurance companies had wanted to extend the effective date for grandfathered plans until Dec. 31, 2013, which would have meant that few at this moment would be complaining that they had lost a plan they liked. Of course, that would have also meant fewer potential customers for the Obamacare exchanges in the first year.
In a nutshell, there is a lot of regular turnover in the individual insurance market, and it has already been over three years since the law passed — i.e., far enough in the past that it was pretty much guaranteed that most people currently in the individual market would lose their plans and find themselves being herded toward the ObamaCare exchanges. That’s kind of the idea, no?
Update: I should add that Politifact already awarded O’s latest tortured argument on that front (“Now, if you have or had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed) with their most unprodigious “pants on fire” status. Burn.