Politics & Policy

No, You Can’t Keep It

So far the part of the Obamacare rollout that is going most smoothly and affecting the most people is the cancellation of current insurance polices. In states around the country, hundreds of thousands of people are getting notices from insurers that their plans are no longer allowed by the law. All told, 16 million people may be dumped from their policies, in flagrant contradiction of President Obama’s famous promise that you can keep your health plan if you like it. 

Maybe the president didn’t understand the basic architecture of his own health care law, which depends on a government takeover of the individual insurance market. The rules governing the new system impose a novel federal definition of insurance on the country, and plans that dont meet it, regardless of how well they may have served their customers in the past, are, by and large, verboten. Some are grandfathered, but the rules are strict and a great many existing plans wont pass muster.

The woes of Healthcare.gov mean that the people with cancelled policies who are supposed to go find new insurance on the exchange can’t for now, and may not be able to by December 15, when they’d need to sign up to stay insured on January 1. When and if the website is finally functioning, many of these people won’t like what they see. In contradiction of another famous Obama promise, they will be charged more for their insurance to subsidize the costs of other people on the exchanges. For millions of Americans, Obamacare will be an experience in plumbing the depths of the dishonesty of President Obama’s case for his signature domestic accomplishment.

Unfortunately, Republicans can’t undo the law in one fell swoop. They can work to delay key provisions, chip away at its coercive power, and illustrate its folly, toward the longer-term goal of rolling it back in its entirety and replacing it with something better. To that end, Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson will introduce legislation to allow people to keep their current health plans by grandfathering as many of them as possible. A debate on the bill will accent the emptiness of President Obama’s assurances and further pressure red-state Democrats who have shown an eagerness to distance themselves from the law over the past two weeks. House Republicans should take up and pass the measure, which is likely to have bipartisan support, just as a proposed delay of the individual mandate did.

Ultimately, the only way to allow people to keep (and buy) the insurance they want is to repeal the law and foster a true market in health insurance. Until then, the wrecking ball of Obamacare swings.


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