Hundreds of thousands lose insurance due to ‘Affordable’ Care Act
Almost one month after launch, the websites for the president’s hallmark health care plan continue to be riddled with issues that have opened up entirely new opportunities for opponents of so-called “Obamacare” to pounce upon. Perhaps more damaging to the reputation of the administration, however, are preliminary reports suggesting that the insurance program is failing to meet the promises made by the president.
Specifically, investigative journalists say the Affordable Care Act is already causing long-time policy holders to be kicked off of their insurance plans, and in some areas others only the have the option of one or two providers — and not at a pretty price.
Anna Gorman and Julie Appleby write for Kaiser Health News that hundreds of thousands of United States citizens who had purchased policies already are having their plans cancelled by health insurance companies because the Affordable Care Act mandates that providers offer customers specific policies that some groups currently don’t offer.
According to Gorman and Appleby, Florida Blue terminated 300,000 policies just recently — or around 80 percent of its individual business in the Sunshine State. Independence Blue Cross, the major insurer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is canceling about 45 percent of its policies, and others across the country are following suit.
“Insurers say the cancellations are necessary because the policies fall short of what the Affordable Care Act requires starting Jan. 1,” the journalists wrote. “Most are ending policies sold after the law passed in March 2010. At least a few are canceling plans sold to people with pre-existing medical conditions.”
And although the White House assured Americans that the Affordable Care Act would allow competition to thrive and thusly drive down prices, others aren’t exactly seeing it that way. The Kaiser report reveals that hundreds of thousands of former customers are now in the market for new insurance, but another investigation suggests they won’t necessarily be saving money once they switch. An independent report conducted by journalists at the New York Times and published on Wednesday this week claims there is solid evidence to suggest the president’s promise of low costs isn’t coming true just yet.
“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,” Reed Abelson, Katie Thomas and Jo Craven McGinty wrote for the paper. “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.”
Indeed, the White House insisted the Affordable Care Act would create new, low prices due to competition, but in much of the US such isn’t the case. The Times has found that many parts of the country now have a single provider or two offering all Obamacare-friendly policies, and the prices they are charging isn’t anything worth reveling about.
“The consumer wants some level of choice,” Alexander K. Feldvebel, the deputy insurance commissioner for the single-carrier state of New Hampshire, told the Times. “You don’t have that when you have a single carrier offering all the products.”
Jerry Dworak, the chief executive of the Montana Health CO-OP, told the times that adding a third competitor “really changes the landscape vastly.”
In rural area, though, three providers — or even two — might not be an option.
“I think the problem was that the Affordable Care Act was designed for where the majority of the people live, in the big cities where there’s a lot of competition among health care providers,” agreed Tom Hirsig, Wyoming’s insurance commissioner.
Around 2,500 counties in the US are served by federal exchanges, according to the Times, but 58 percent of those jurisdictions have two or fewer insurance carriers. In all, about 530 counties have a single provider.
Under the Affordable Care Act, Americans who do not buy in to a health insurance program will be fined. A recent Gallup poll, however, suggests more than one-third of the country would rather pay a penalty than get coverage.
Efforts being led by Congressional democrats are underway in Washington right now to have the buy-in deadline extended until the end of March.