Today, for the first time, the Obama administration issued a direct apology for the snafus that have hampered signups to Healthcare.gov.
“I want to apologize to you that the website has not worked as well as it should,” Marilyn Tavenner , chief for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee.
But there is no apology for the latest dustup over Obamacare—the claim that no one will force you to change your current insurance plan.
“If you like your plan, you can keep your plan,” a line Obama used continuously to sell the bill and kept using this year to promote his healthcare law.
But, that may not be true for everyone.
“This is not the issuers wanting to stop to offer policy,” Rep Aaron Schock, R-Ill., said at the House Ways and Means Committee hearing today. “The issuer is saying, we’re being mandated that we can’t continue to offer this policy…The whitehouse.gov website says, if you want to keep the health insurance that you’ve got, you can keep it, and now they’re being told they can’t. That’s a lie.”
According to UCLA Center for Health Policy Research approximate 14 million Americans, roughly 5 percent of the American population, buy private health insurance.
For Florida resident Julie Prince, who received a letter from her insurance company saying her private plan no longer exists, the change is a concern.
“What concerns me the most, I am not going to be able to afford anything if I get sick,” she told ABC News.
Why is this happening?
Because insurance companies which offered cheap insurance like Prince’s left out basics now required by Obamacare: such as hospital coverage, maternity, mental health, vaccinations or prescription drugs.
So insurers are being forced to cancel those plans and replace them with ones that do meet the requirements. Prince’s new premium would be $210 a month, approximately three times more than she pays now if she takes the insurance company’s alternative.
But three independent healthcare experts tell ABC News “consumers should not panic.”
“They have much better access to insurance now,” said Lynn Quincy, senior policy analyst for Consumers Union – the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. “They cannot be denied starting January 1, 2014…and they can’t be charged more if they have been sick or ill in the past.”
Prince and the others, Quincy said, are likely to find plans just as cheap or cheaper on the marketplace when it’s fully functional—and with better coverage.
Right now Prince is frighteningly underinsured, because her current plan does not include hospital coverage.
“That is an enormous hole in her coverage,” Quincy said. “Hospital care is very, very expensive and obviously it is a vital service if you experience a trauma, or an illness, or cancer, that would be an absolutely unacceptable omission from the consumer’s point of view.”
Oversold, or big lie as the president’s opponents contend?
The White House says America’s underinsured will be better off with Obamacare. And the president’s statement on keeping the insurance you like holds with one caveat.
“If you had a plan on the individual market and you liked it and you like it and you’ve kept it, you can keep it forever as long as your insurer offers it,” spokesman Jay Carney said today at the White House.
Consumer Reports offers a “Health Law Helper” for consumers confused about health insurance and offers consumers personalized guidance on the Affordable Care Act.