During the debate over the federal health care law, President Obama promised that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.”
That promise looks increasingly unlikely as the deadline approaches for insurance companies to comply with the stringent policy requirements outlined in the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare. Many questions remain unanswered, and state insurance commissioners-including officials at the Texas Department of Insurance-remain uncertain if policyholders will be receiving cancellation notices in the mail this fall and be forced to choose more expensive, ObamaCare-compliant plans. The federal government has required such notices to be mailed by September 15, leaving little time for consumers to brace for the new changes.
Although the law contains a grandfather clause exempting existing plans from some of the new minimum coverage requirements, other regulations included in the law are so burdensome that many carriers are planning to cancel old plans and offer their customers new ones that are compliant with the new rules. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has said this might be easier that overhauling the old plans.
Another problem is the interpretation of the grandfather clause. If a plan is significantly changed to comply with all applicable new requirements, is it still the same plan? Is it eligible for protection? Insurance commissioners are unsure.
At the same time, employees of larger companies are hearing that their plans may be stripped down or dropped altogether. Carriers have begun designing “Band-Aid” plans for large employers that meet minimum requirements but don’t cover things like surgery or hospital stays. Other employers plan to lower workers’ hours to avoid the employer mandate, forcing millions of Americans to purchase insurance in the yet-to-be-established exchanges. The Congressional Budget Office has said that the new law will cause 20 million Americans to lose their employer-sponsored coverage, a conservative estimate compared to other actuaries.
Proponents of ObamaCare were willing to say lots of things to guarantee its passage, even when those promises were undeliverable from the beginning. Given the uncertainty expressed by insurance commissioners and carriers, it’s becoming increasingly clear that if you like your health care plan, well, you might lose it anyway.