“If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.”
The U.S. individual health insurance market currently totals about 19 million people. Because the Obama administration's regulations on grandfathering existing plans were so stringent about 85% of those, 16 million, are not grandfathered and must comply with Obamacare at their next renewal. The rules are very complex. For example, if you had an individual plan in March of 2010 when the law was passed and you only increased the deductible from $1,000 to $1,500 in the years since, your plan has lost its grandfather status and it will no longer be available to you when it would have renewed in 2014. These 16 million people are now receiving letters from their carriers saying they are losing their current coverage and must re-enroll in order to avoid a break in coverage and comply with the new health law's benefit mandates––the vast majority by January 1. Most of these will be seeing some pretty big rate increases.
CBO has estimated that the number of people dislodged from their pre-Obamacare arrangements could reach 20 million, while other independent analyses have concluded that the eventual figure may be significantly higher. The low-ball estimates of 16-20 million would be the equivalent of the entire population of Florida losing coverage. CareFirst is the latest insurer to break the bad news to its customers:
CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield is being forced to cancel plans that currently cover 76,000 individuals in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., due to changes made by President Obama's health care law, the company told the Washington Examiner today. That represents more than 40 percent of the 177,000 individuals covered by CareFirst in those states. Though Obama famously promised that those who liked their health care coverage could keep it under his program, in reality, the health care law imposes a raft of new regulations on insurance policies starting Jan. 1 that are forcing insurers across the country to terminate existing plans.
Obama also predicted that the new law would reduce average family premiums by $2,500 per year, and Nancy Pelosi asserted that "everybody will have lower rates." That's not going to be true for tens of millions of Americans, and will ring especially hollow for most people on the individual market. The New York Times reports that many rural communities are already beginning to feel Obamacare's price pinch:
As technical failures bedevil the rollout of President Obama’s health care law, evidence is emerging that one of the program’s loftiest goals — to encourage competition among insurers in an effort to keep costs low — is falling short for many rural Americans. While competition is intense in many populous regions, rural areas and small towns have far fewer carriers offering plans in the law’s online exchanges. Those places, many of them poor, are being asked to choose from some of the highest-priced plans in the 34 states where the federal government is running the health insurance marketplaces, a review by The New York Times has found. Of the roughly 2,500 counties served by the federal exchanges, more than half, or 58 percent, have plans offered by just one or two insurance carriers, according to an analysis by The Times of county-level data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services. In about 530 counties, only a single insurer is participating. The analysis suggests that the ambitions of the Affordable Care Act to increase competition have unfolded unevenly, at least in the early going, and have not addressed many of the factors that contribute to high prices.
The Times' analysis shows that these problems are especially acute in southern and "flyover" states -- places where the president is particularly unpopular. A final reminder: Obamacare, contrary to Democrats' assurances, is bending the national healthcare cost curve in the wrong direction. Hitting the administration hard for its transcendent incompetence is a political no-brainer for Republicans, but relentlessly highlighting the substantive failures of the program itself (which liberals pretend is totally separate from the failed exchange portals) is imperative. Even if every single bug and technical issue were rectified tomorrow, that wouldn't change the fact that the program is harmful, unaffordable, and built on reckless promises.
UPDATE - A cringe-worthy headline from Forbes: "More Americans In 3 States Have Had Their Insurance Canceled Under ObamaCare Than Have Filed An Exchange Account In All 50." Oof.