Oba­macare’s first users start to get booted Boehner sees more losers than win­ners by end of month

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

The health care law’s hon­ey­moon pe­riod is over.

For sev­eral years, Oba­macare pro­vided new ben­e­fits: Chil­dren could stay on their par­ents’ plans longer, insurance com­pa­nies couldn’t im­pose life­time ben­e­fit caps, and se­niors got ex­tra help in buy­ing pre­scrip­tion drugs. But dur­ing the past two months, some con­sumers have been kicked off plans, and they and oth­ers are hav­ing to nav­i­gate the com­plex­i­ties of health care ex­changes.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Repub­li­can, said Wed­nes­day that more peo­ple have been kicked out of their health care plans thanks to re­cently ac­ti­vated pro­vi­sions than have been able to sign up in the ex­changes — an equa­tion he said un­der­scored the prob­lems with the law.

“When you be­gin to look at th­ese hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple, I think what you’re go­ing to see at the end of Oc­to­ber are more Amer­i­cans are go­ing to lose their health insurance than are go­ing to sign up at th­ese ex­changes,” Mr. Boehner told re­porters.

Con­sumers have re­ported tremen­dous dif­fi­cul­ties in sign­ing up through the fed­eral online por­tal, Health­Care.gov. That has led Repub­li­cans and even some Democrats to urge Pres­i­dent Obama to ex­tend the en­roll­ment pe­riod and/or de­lay im­pos­ing tax penal­ties on those who fail to sign up — thus vi­o­lat­ing the law’s “in­di­vid­ual man­date” re­quir­ing most Amer­i­cans to get insurance.

As those dif­fi­cul­ties emerge, mean­while, Kaiser Health News re­ported this week that hun­dreds of thou­sands of Amer­i­cans have re­ceived notices from their in­sur­ers can­cel­ing their poli­cies: 300,000 from Florida Blue and 160,000 from Kaiser Per­ma­nente in Cal­i­for­nia, in ad­di­tion to thou­sands from other ma­jor in­sur­ers.

An­a­lysts fol­low­ing the health care law said those are anec­do­tal fig­ures and there is no way to know for sure whether Mr. Boehner’s claim is cor­rect about cancellations out­num­ber­ing en­rollees.

Pro­fes­sor Ti­mothy S. Jost, a health care law re­searcher, said Mr. Boehner’s con­cerns should change as peo­ple whose plans have been can­celed go to the ex­changes and, in many cases, find they can get bet­ter, cheaper cov­er­age.

“I would not be sur­prised if it’s true that more peo­ple are los­ing the cov­er­age that they have hereto­fore had than have so far been able to sign up through the ex­changes, but I think once the ex­changes are fully op­er­a­tional, many of those peo­ple are go­ing to see, af­ter the pre­mium tax cred­its are ap­plied, lower-cost insurance than what they cur­rently have,” said Mr. Jost, who teaches at Wash­ing­ton and Lee Univer­sity School of Law.

In many cases, he said, insurance com­pa­nies have to can­cel poli­cies be­cause they no longer would be le­gal un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act’s re­quire­ments that all plans cover ser­vices such as men­tal health or phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, do not cap life­time or yearly ben­e­fits, and in­clude pre­ven­tive ser­vices.

He said the dif­fi­culty for back­ers of the health care law right now is that the prob­lems with the web­site are ob­scur­ing the ben­e­fits.

“Many peo­ple are go­ing to be ben­e­fited. Un­for­tu­nately, so few peo­ple are able to get all the way to the end and see that what their premi­ums are, their ben­e­fits are, that’s not very ap­par­ent to a lot of peo­ple right now,” Mr. Jost said.

One fear among some an­a­lysts is that the prob­lems with sign­ing up, cou­pled with other fac­tors, would make young, healthy Amer­i­cans pay the tax penalty in­stead of buy­ing insurance. That would hurt the eco­nomic model that as­sumes those younger Amer­i­cans will pay into the sys­tem to off­set the costs of the older and sicker Amer­i­cans who will be guar­an­teed cov­er­age.

The White House is urg­ing con­sumers to with­hold judg­ment, say­ing that the ben­e­fits to the law even­tu­ally will win over Amer­i­cans who are strug­gling to sign up.

“Those strug­gles, as I said yes­ter­day, pale in com­par­i­son to the un­cer­tainty that a sin­gle mom, who’s a breast can­cer sur­vivor, has felt ev­ery day that she’s lacked insurance be­cause she can’t af­ford it, she’s been priced out of it, or in­sur­ers sim­ply won’t give it to her be­cause she has a pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tion,” White House press sec­re­tary Jay Car­ney said.


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