As technical failures bedevil the rollout of President Obama’s health care law, evidence is emerging that one of the program’s loftiest goals — to encourage competition among insurers in an effort to keep costs low — is falling short for many rural Americans.
While competition is intense in many populous regions, rural areas and small towns have far fewer carriers offering plans in the law’s online exchanges. Those places, many of them poor, are being asked to choose from some of the highest-priced plans in the 34 states where the federal government is running the health insurance marketplaces, a review by The New York Times has found.
This afternoon, “you can keep your plan” takes another blow. Philip Klein reports that 76,000 of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s individual market customers will lose their current plan. Now, as the president might say, let me be clear. It was always a lie that everyone could keep your plan if you liked it because Obamacare’s new mandates and “essential health benefits” made it literally impossible and illegal for certain existing plans to continue to exist. So, it wasn’t a matter of opinion or paranoia or mere possibilities of unintended consequences. The fact that you could not keep your plan was in the law, and yet, President Obama got away with saying “If you like your plan you can keep it,” and calling those who noticed the impossibility “fearmongers.”
CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield is being forced to cancel plans that currently cover 76,000 individuals in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., due to changes made by President Obama’s health care law, the company told the Washington Examiner today.
That represents more than 40 percent of the 177,000 individuals covered by CareFirst in the states.
Though Obama famously promised that those who liked their health care coverage could keep it under his program, in reality the health care law imposes a raft of new regulations on insurance policies starting Jan. 1 that are forcing insurers across the country to terminate existing plans.
In theory, rules were supposed to allow pre-existing plans to be “grandfathered in,” but they were written so narrowly as to leave out many plans.
“Of the 177,000 individuals under age 65 who are covered by CareFirst, about 76,000 of them are in a non-grandfathered plan – a plan that will not comply with the guidelines imposed by the Affordable Care Act at their time of renewal this year or next,” CareFirst said in an email in response to an inquiry by the Examiner.
The argument of an Obamacare supporter, when confronted with this reality, is to ignore the solemn promise of Obamacare, made so very many times. Instead, they say something along the lines of, “Well, who’d be dumb enough to like a plan like that? Of course those plans aren’t sticking around. They’ll get better plans.” Those “better” plans are often more expensive than the plans with low monthly costs and high deductibles many liked and counted on before Obamacare. Some of the people who will lose their plans and be allowed to buy “better” plans may not be eligible for subsidies. And, even if they are, there’s no telling when they’ll be able to find that out on the federal or state exchanges which are, to use a technical term, still a total Charlie Foxtrot.
Like this Missouri man, whose family is learning Obamacare’s not going to help them at all. He’s also a Blue Cross Blue Shield customer:
The Free Beacon is keeping good track of the personal and local stories of the havoc Obamacare is wreaking. When it comes to breaking its promises, the legislation is indeed more than just a website. Texans gripe about rising costs while an Indiana hospital is forced to let go hundreds to bring its cost of care into compliance and stay above water.
And, no, the call centers and in-person sign-ups were never meant to substitute for the website and won’t be able to serve you, as Matt Lewis reported:
In recent days, Petno has noted that it’s a 10-step process to obtain health care coverage, and that the operators can’t even give you a specific timeframe for when they will even respond (other than to say you will have a chance to enroll by January 1).
Most importantly, they won’t even give you a specific quote for your health insurance over the phone (though there is a rough estimator on the website.) So the notion that you can actually easily sign up for health care coverage by calling the 1-800 number seems to be overstated. “The phone call is Rube Goldberg 2.0,” Petno tells me during a phone interview.
It’s 10 a.m. Monday inside the call center of Connecticut’s new insurance exchange established under the federal health law. On the 21st floor of the downtown Prudential Building, about 25 operators in blue shaded cubicles are talking on telephone headsets while a dozen more callers wait on hold.
“It’s controlled chaos,” said David Lynch, the call center manager for the marketplace.
Centers like these were touted by President Barack Obama this week as one of several alternatives for consumers having trouble shopping and enrolling in plans through healthcare.gov, the bug-ridden website run by the federal government for residents of 36 states.
“The call centers are available,” he said, reciting the telephone number — 1-800-318-2596. “You can talk to somebody directly and they can walk you through the application process…Once you get on the phone with a trained representative, it usually takes about 25 minutes for an individual to apply for coverage, about 45 minutes for a family.”
But consumer advocates say the centers were never meant to be an alternative to the insurance exchange website. They were conceived of as a supplement – a way to offer some consumers more help to understand their options.
“The telephone call center is not a realistic alternative to the website,” said Adam Linker, health policy analyst for the North Carolina Justice Center, a consumer advocacy group. “The marketplace was billed as a place to easily shop and compare plans, but on the phone there is no real way to do that.”
If only Obamacare could do anything else as efficiently as it breaks its promises.