The Big Problem with the 'Keep Your Health Plan' Act

Posted: Nov 13, 2013 10:30 AM

The Weekly Standard's John McCormack published some good reporting on Rep. Fred Upton's (R-MI) "Keep Your Health Plan" Act yesterday. The takeaway being that, despite what others have argued, it is possible for insurance companies to un-cancel health insurance policies previously cancelled due to Obamacare.

McCormack writes:

Health policy expert Jim Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center disagrees with that assessment. "I think this notion that 'Oh, you know, it'll take too long' is just an excuse," says Capretta, a former Associate Director at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Capretta points to California, where the insurance commissioner forced Blue Shield to delay cancellations for over 100,000 people because of a technicality (the insurer sent its cancellation letters out later than required by law).

"These insurers are complying. They found a way to reopen their plan to keep people on them," Capretta tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD. "So if that can be done, other plans can be brought back."

Capretta thinks the real problem isn't that insurers lack the technical ability to reopen canceled plans. "The insurers don't want to go back. They bought in, spent a lot of money investing in Obamacare," he says. "If the House passes this...pressure will build on the states and the insurers to reopen these plans and let people stay in them."

But unlike the competing Senate bill, sponsored Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the Upton bill does not force insurance companies to offer the old plans. It only allows them to do so.

This, as Capretta points out, would take pressure off Obamcare and Democrats, and move it to evil insurance companies who are refusing to let people keep their insurance.

Why on earth would Republicans want to bail Democrats out on Obamacare by supplying them with a villain to scapegoat?

More importantly, however, at no point does Capretta or Upton explain how they can guarantee the legislation will accomplish what the title says it will: that all Americans will be able to keep the plans they currently have.

True, millions of Americans who have not had their plans cancelled yet might have their plans saved... for a little while. But that still leaves millions of other Americans with cancelled plans.

Why do Republicans feel the need to make the same impossible promises about keeping your current plan that Obama did?

Heather Higgins, CEO of Independent Women's Voice outlines a better strategy at National Review writing:

Conservatives must advocate for ways to minimize the great harm this law does to our health sector and economy, and they must describe more effective alternatives. ... Legislatively, our slogan should be “Tell the truth, stop the bleeding, free Americans to find the cure.”

Among Higgins better ideas for partially repealing Obamacare (or "rolling it back" as she calls it), include:

Delay the individual mandate. It is important to propose (again) a delay in the individual mandate and the attendant tax penalty — which is paid by people who are not and likely never will be in the exchanges, for the benefit of insurance companies, because the government knows the exchanges are inherently unstable. Any such delay must be for a year, because moral fairness demands parity with the employer mandate — which has already been delayed a year by administrative fiat — and the logic of individual freedom tells most Americans (Justice Roberts notwithstanding) that such a mandate, call it tax or penalty, is anathema to our conception of limited government and individual rights. And that doesn’t even include the real data-theft risks that face those who sign up.


Allow private competition. Republicans should advance legislation that allows companies not on exchanges to offer high-deductible, less comprehensive catastrophic-coverage policies to anyone, free of penalty, which would keep a private market in genuine insurance (as opposed to prepaid health care) ticking. You know, the stuff the administration decries as “junk,” but which many people find to be far better value for their money. It’s unlikely that this will pass, but it will be an important marker that Republicans value freedom and choice.

An outright repeal of the individual mandate would be preferable to a delay, but if Democrats are only willing to sign on to a delay, then Republicans would be wise to take it.

And don't dismiss Democrat willingness to allow more catastrophic plans either. Obamacare activist Harold Pollack is now admitting that it "may also be wise to revisit just how minimal the most minimal insurance packages should be." Apparently, Institute of Medicine experts warned in 2011 that the many mandatory benefits in Obamacare would drive up plan costs and cause greater sticker shock. "This month’s backlash, Pollack writes, "underscores the wisdom of the IOM’s approach."

Democrats may still be unwilling to sign on to these Obamacare roll backs today, but think of how unpopular Obamacare has become in just one month. Now consider that the White House will probably fail to fix by Dec. 1. Obamacare is only going to get less popular. It is a sinking ship. And Democrats are going to be desperate for a life raft.

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