The so called liberal media has been filled with “Obamacare horror stories” ever since insurance exchanges went live on October 1. The problems with the Healthcare.gov website have been well documented. The media have also looked at people getting cancellation letters from their insurance companies, and “sticker shock” caused when consumers see the cost of some policy options. Now the talk is about how the president “lied” when he said that people could keep their insurance if they like it. Much of the coverage has been incomplete and has failed to address reasons why some of these things are happening.
CBS News jumped on the Obamacare horror stories bandwagon with the story of Dianne Barrette. She claims that she is being forced off a $54 per month policy for one that will cost ten times as much.
What’s the deal behind all of these Obamacare horror stories? Is there more to them than what is being reported in the mainstream media? Would it surprise you to learn that the answer to that question is “yes?”
Most Obamcare horror stories are connected to the loss of current insurance policies.
Kaiser Health News reported on October 21 that insurers are sending “hundreds of thousands of cancellation letters to people who buy their own coverage.” Dianne Barrette is one of those consumers. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida sent her a letter explaining why her policy was being cancelled. The letter states that the new premium “reflects required changes due to the ACA, such as the addition of essential health benefits.”
Tommy Christopher reports on Mediaite that Barrette’s current plan is typical of what is known as “junk insurance.” These policies, which leave large gaps in coverage, can no longer be sold to individuals. Dianne Barrette’s policy, for example, does not cover hospitalization. What she describes as a “$50 co-pay” is actually the amount her insurance pays towards covered services. Those covered services are very limited in scope. Also, there is no maximum out of pocket amount. So should Ms. Barrette require a $2,000 MRI, her current insurance will pay $50. She will pay the balance.
Some insurance policies are “grandfathered in” under the law.
Some consumers are confused about insurance policies that are grandfathered under the ACA. If the policy existed before March 23, 2010 and meets certain criteria, consumers may keep it. These policies may not offer all of the consumer protections of newer policies. For example, grandfathered individual plans do not have to end yearly limits on coverage. Grandfathered plans do have to cover children to age 26, and they cannot impose lifetime coverage limits.
Another important thing to note about grandfathered plans is that they are not required to offer the “essential health benefits” package that is required of all other plans. This group of benefits is responsible for the increase in premium costs some consumers are seeing when moving to a new plan from one that does not qualify to be grandfathered in.
Are many Obamacare horror stories being caused by insurance companies?
The Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. According to Kaiser Health News, most of the policies now being cancelled were sold after the ACA became law. Think about what that means. Between March of 2010 and October 2013, insurers were selling health care policies that they knew did not comply with the law. Those insurers knew that they could not continue to sell those policies after January 2014, yet they offered them to customers anyway. Why? A very good question. Were consumers notified when they purchased these policies that they would have to be replaced when the ACA went into effect? Judging by the number of people telling their Obamacare horror stories to the media, the answer appears to be “no.”
There are more questions that need to be asked surrounding the various Obamacare horror stories, and the mainstream media is not asking them. At the present time Congress is not aiding in fact finding, as Republicans are much more interested in wrecking the law than in fixing it. Given the historical conduct of insurance companies, it is not totally out of the question to wonder whether some of them are aiding opponents of the law through legal yet deceptive sales practices. For example, did insurers explain to customers why the policy they were purchasing would have to be replaced in 2014? Of course we cannot expect the corporate media to look at that and other questions too closely, given that insurance companies sponsor some of the very shows that should be reporting on them. So get used to it — whether there is any merit to them or not, Obamacare horror stories are going to be with us for a while.