How many times have we heard President Obama deliver one version or another of this standard stump speech item? “If you like your health insurance plan, you keep your health insurance plan. If you like your doctor, you keep your doctor.” And whether you’re reading the actual wording of H.R. 3200 or the various takes of analysts in the field, that seems to be true… at least for a little while. But there are some significant monkey wrenches tossed into the machinery by this essentially flawed legislation which voters should take a close look at before endorsing it. That promise of being able to “keep your plan” looks like it will have an expiration date on it for most people, and it’s not too far in the future.
A solid, balanced, decidedly not “Librul Bashing” analysis can be found with this St. Petersburg Times PolitiFact article, where they analyze the President’s statements on this issue and find that, at best, it can be rated as “half true.” Of the many problems with this aspect of H.R. 3200, big questions surround the creation of the government monitored and regulated “exchanges” and how many companies it would apply to. The somewhat benign sounding purpose of the exchange would be to provide a virtual shopping center for individuals and “small business owners” seeking the best rates under the watchful eye of the Federal Government. But there’s a back door provision stuck in there.
Pending legislation in the House says that only individuals and small businesses of fewer than 10 employees would be able to use the exchange during the first year, and only individuals and small businesses with fewer than 20 employees in the second year. In the third year, businesses are allowed in “based on the number of full-time employees of an employer and such other considerations as the Commissioner deems appropriate.” This sounds like employers will gradually be allowed into the exchange based on size, as well as “other considerations as the (health exchange) Commissioner deems appropriate.” This obviously gives tremendous leeway to the commissioner, who is presidential appointee in charge of the health exchange. So year three becomes a question mark as to how many businesses will be allowed into the exchange.
There is no upper limit, in reality, and it’s based entirely on the whim of an official appointed by the President. Now, many of you may be saying that this isn’t a big deal because who is “allowed” in won’t matter if your employer doesn’t want to check into the program anyway, right? Not so fast there, skippy. They may not have a choice.
Take a look at the actual bill (download the PDF at that link) and go to page 16 where you will find Section 102, ironically enough called “PROTECTING THE CHOICE TO KEEP CURRENT COVERAGE”
GRANDFATHERED HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE DEFINED.
Subject to the succeeding provisions of this section, for purposes of establishing acceptable coverage under this division, the term ‘‘grandfathered health insurance coverage’’ means individual health insurance coverage that is offered and in force and effect before the first day of Y1 if the following conditions are met:
Among the various restrictions which can hit private insurance plans is one that may sound great on the surface, but has some ominous undertones. The private plans can’t change their rates for any risk groups without being disqualified, thereby driving the employees into the government exchange.
RESTRICTIONS ON PREMIUM INCREASES.
The issuer cannot vary the percentage increase in the premium for a risk group of enrollees in specific grandfathered health insurance coverage without changing the premium for all enrollees in the same risk group at the same rate, as specified by the Commissioner.
So why would they raise their rates? Aside from the fact that continual advances in medical technology deploy increasingly expensive equipment and medicines which drive up costs, under H.R. 3200, the Federal Government will help drive up their costs by imposing additional fees on private insurers to help pay for all this. Let’s open our PDF file back up and all turn to page 828 under Section 4375.
SEC. 4375. HEALTH INSURANCE. (a) IMPOSITION OF FEE.
There is hereby imposed on each specified health insurance policy for each policy year a fee equal to the fair share per capita amount determined under section 9511(c)(1) multiplied by the average number of lives covered under the policy.
(b) LIABILITY FOR FEE.—The fee imposed by sub section (a) shall be paid by the issuer of the policy.
Before rushing in to support legislation such as H.R. 3200, I suggest you stop to ask yourself if you really want such an unlocked, open back door buried in it which can spread out government control to any number of companies of whichever size they choose. And if the government is going to drive up the costs of the insurance companies through fees and then take away your choice of “keeping your plan” because they can no longer meet the cost curve, is that really a choice to keep your current coverage at all?
The next time you go out to deliver that line you should practice keeping your teeth together, Mr. President. We can see your forked tongue poking through.