President Obama famously claimed that Americans who liked their insurance plans would be able to keep them under health-care reform. Well, that’s not completely true, nor is it the only example of the Obama administration failing to prepare the public for the Affordable Care Act’s phase-in. And it was one of the only things Republicans at a House Ways and Means Committee Hearing on Tuesday wanted to talk about.
Some Americans are starting to get ominous-sounding letters about their health-care coverage. Insurance provider Florida Blue, for example, is canceling 300,000 bare-bones insurance plans that aren’t up to the Affordable Care Act’s standards. Customers can transition onto better quality — but more expensive — plans. Unsurprisingly, reporters have found some unhappy customers. Conservatives, meanwhile, have charged that this is just another example of why the law is a lemon, forcing people onto plans they don’t want.
But, despite what the president may have said, this news should not have come as a shock, and it is not evidence that the law is a failure.
The reform underway is rooted in the notion that there is a certain catalog of health-care benefits to which all Americans should have access, and that they should not have to pay outrageous amounts of money to get that coverage. It means to accomplish that goal by mandating that everyone not on government-run programs such as Medicaid pay into the private insurance system, and by setting certain standards on what health-care insurance must cover.
Plans must include prescription drug, mental health, maternity, preventative care and other basic benefits, and they must take care of at least 60 percent of patients’ health expenses. The vast majority of Americans, most of whom get health insurance from their employers, won’t see much change. But a significant number — a study looking at 2010 figures said half — of customers currently buying insurance on their own don’t have plans of that quality.