The Unraveling of Obamacare

Donald Lambro

10/30/2013 12:01:00 AM - Donald Lambro

Now we know what President Obama knew all along -- that millions of Americans would not be able keep their health insurance plans under Obamacare.

Contrary to his oft-repeated promise that if you like the medical care insurance policy you have now, you'll be able to keep it. "No one can take that away from you," he told us in countless speeches since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted in 2010.

Obamacare critics knew better and told anyone who'd listen that this wasn't true and the administration knew it wasn't true.

Now the ugly truth has been reported on all of the nightly network news programs, dealing a devastating and maybe politically lethal blow to the trouble-plagued Obamacare law before it has even begun delivering on its promises.

Here's the thrust of what NBC NEWS reported this week on their nightly news show as it was further elaborated on the network's web site:

"Four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act tell NBC NEWS that 50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a 'cancellation' letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don't meet the standards mandated by the new health care law."

"One expert predicts that number could reach as high as 80 percent. And all say that many of those forced to buy pricier new policies will experience 'sticker shock.'"

The Obamacare law clearly states that policies that were in the enacted legislation on March 23, 2010 would be "grandfathered." In other words, people would keep their policies, even if their plans failed to meet the mandated health care requirements as spelled out in the law.

But then the Department of Health and Human Services drafted regulations in July 2010 that sharply tightened this provision in a way that clamped down on private policies.

These regulations declared that "if any part of a policy was significantly changed since that date -- the deductible, co-pay, or benefits, for example -- the policy would not be grandfathered," NBC reported.

Indeed, the HHS regulations went further, estimating that about "40 to 67 percent" of policy holders would not be able to retain their plans as presently written. And that those losing grandfather status could well exceed the 67 percent top estimate.

"That means the administration knew that more that 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them," the network reported.

Early in Congress's 2009-10 debate over health care reform, Republicans warned that the administration's long-term goal was to squeeze private health care plans out of existence and replace them with federally-run, federally-approved plans. These regulations were a major step in that direction.

Is there anyone in America who hasn't heard Obama promise, as he was still saying in 2012, and this year, too, "If [you] already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance."

The administration's all-but-buried regulations say just the opposite.

"This says that when they made the promise, they knew half the people in this market outright couldn't keep what they had and then they wrote the rules so that others couldn't make it either," says health care industry consultant Robert Laszewski.

But a growing number of Americans, who like the private plans they have, already knew Obama's assurances were false. They've been getting policy cancellations in the mail in the past few months.

Last week, Kaiser Health News reported that insurance companies from Pennsylvania to Florida were mailing out notices to hundreds of thousands of customers, telling them that their coverage would end by the end of this year.

The reason: Beginning in January, most private policies must include 10 basic benefits mandated by Obamacare, including maternity, pediatric and dental care. Plans that don't offer these benefits were being cancelled.

In one typical case, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida sent cancellation notices to over 300,000 of its customers.

In addition to the government-driven, forced crackdown on popular private insurance plans, Obamacare is hurting millions more Americans who are losing jobs and incomes as a result of the law's "unintended consequences."

"People with lower incomes are finding their hours slashed to part time by employers threatened with fines for not complying with the ACA's temporarily postponed employer mandate," health care analyst Grace-Marie Turner said in the Society of Actuaries' October Health Watch newsletter.

Many others are losing jobs and their health care plan as employers cut their payroll to escape the higher health care costs and potential penalties under the law. The job-killing costs that Obamacare is imposing on a very weak economy are just starting to explode.

Frightened Democrats have begun to complain. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin is calling for delaying the law's individual mandate and fines for at least a year. "All we're postponing is the crime and the fine," he said last week.

It's going to get worse. The problem-filled obstacles to signing up online are only the tip of a menacing iceberg. Obamacare can only work financially if plenty of younger, healthier, employed people buy into the program to pay for older, sicker Americans.

But if that doesn't happen, Obamacare collapses like a house of cards and the administration hasn't produced any hard data on how many younger people have joined. A very bad sign.

The political success of Obama's big government, liberal agenda is riding on whether any of this works. The number of voters who say the government should do more has plunged, while the number saying it should do less has risen.

This rightward trend is going to decide the outcome of next year's elections in favor of the Republicans, not the Democrats, and the looming Obamacare disaster will be the reason why.