Obamacare train wreck hits Colorado, consumer casualties continue to pile up
Author: Sen. Ted Harvey - December 16, 2013 - Updated: December 16, 2013
On Nov. 6, the Colorado Division of Insurance announced that 249,199 Coloradans have had their health insurance policies cancelled by companies seeking to comply with the federal health reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
What the public does not yet fully understand is that these cancellations are not a glitch or a hiccup in the design of a web page. Massive policy cancellations were built into the PPACA from the beginning, and we were warned about it early and often.
In 2010, members of Congress and the Obama administration were told by several industry groups that millions of policy cancellations would be inevitable if PPACA was adopted. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners and America’s Health Insurance Plans warned Health & Human Services regulators that the so-called “grandfather clause” was too narrow to protect the large majority of policies from cancellation once the proposed federal standards were implemented.
The Obama administration and congressional Democrats ignored those warnings. In fact, when Republicans in the U.S. Senate attempted to broaden the PPACA’s “grandfather clause” beyond its very limited reach, both of Colorado’s Democrat U.S. Senators closed ranks with the Obama White House and voted it down.
Suddenly, in 2013, after the cancellation notices have been issued by companies as required by PPACA, the Obama White House and many Democrat lawmakers are adding insult to injury, literally, by telling Coloradans that a cancellation is not really a cancellation if another policy is offered in its place.
According to the Denver Post, Senator Udall is claiming that two-thirds of the 249,199 cancellations are not really cancellations because they “have been offered renewals of existing plans through 2014.” The problem is, it’s dishonest and hypocritical to call those substitute policies “renewals,” and everyone knows that.
Most policyholders are not being offered renewals of their old plans; instead, they are being offered “similar plans” from a menu of plans that meet federal guidelines — but rarely at the same price. But in Obama-speak, a cancellation is really a “renewal” even if it is a different plan with different coverage at a different price.
The Obama administration itself is on record as acknowledging that these massive cancellations would happen — and not only to plans in the individual marketplace but to employer group plans as well.
In a Federal Register notice of June 17, 2010, Obama’s department of HHS acknowledged that insurance plans offered by many employers would be discontinued because most policies will not be grandfathered under the PPACA regulations: “The Departments’ mid-range estimate is that 66 percent of small-employer plans and 45 percent of large-employer plans will relinquish their grandfather status by the end of 2013.”
Suddenly, Obama is asking state insurance commissioners to allow insurance companies to continue existing policies that are not allowed under federal law — but only through 2014. Clearly, Obama and the Democrat Party want to suppress the Obamacare debate until after the November 2014 elections. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.
There are some big obstacles to Obama’s attempted “fix”— for example, legality and practicality. The insurance industry is pretty unanimous in saying that Obama’s plan for a one-year suspension of the law is totally unworkable from both a legal and practical standpoint. Jim Donelon, president of the NAIC, said on Nov. 15, “It threatens the solvency of the system and it threatens to spike the cost to policyholders across the board.”
In fact, legally speaking, the Obama administrative decree is only a set of suggestions, and many state insurance agencies have announced they will ignore them, follow the law, and not permit a continuation of old policies that fail to meet PPACA standards.
Thus, Obama’s desperate “fix” to Obamacare is nothing but a small bandaid on a gushing artery.
The place to deal with Obamacare’s many problems is in Congress, not by imperial edicts from the White House. As a beginning, the House of Representatives has passed the “Keep Your Health Plan Act,” which would allow insurance companies to extend current policies for one year. Strangely, Obama has threatened to veto the bill.
In Colorado, we have a mess of gigantic proportions despite Democrat efforts to put lipstick on this especially ugly pig. Obama’s unilateral Nov. 14 decree did not “fix” the cancellations — or “discontinuations” — and there are still more to come. The tens of thousands of Colorado policyholders who have been offered substitute policies with different coverage at higher prices are not amused by Democrats’ verbal gymnastics trying to define the problem away.
The only real “fix” for Obamacare is to repeal it, and it is likely that more and more Democrats will come to that conclusion as we get closer to the 2014 elections.
Sen. Ted Harvey, Republican from Senate District 30 in Douglas County serves on three legislative committees — Agriculture, Appropriations and State Affairs.