President Obama’s strategy behind his news conference yesterday, Nov 14, 2013, was brilliant. The untold story of this botched “Obamacare” role-out is the opportunistic actions of the health insurance companies who created the cancelled policies part of the problem. They lunged at the opportunity to purge undesirables from their client ranks by simply rewriting their policies to levels below Affordable Care Act compliance, so that those policies had to be cancelled. This is exactly what they did to me and many others. I think I will frame my cancellation letter as proof that we in the individual market have never had real insurance, because our health insurance companies could change or cancel our policies any time they wanted to. That’s not insurance… it’s a scam!
Mr. Obama is smart enough to know that he could not just directly expose the health insurance industry as the culprits behind this part of the ACA role-out debacle without creating a booming outcry about sour grapes and buck-passing. So, instead, he very wisely took all the blame on himself, appearing and sounding more contrite than any other president in my lifetime, even though almost every single one of them had many more reasons for sincere contrition than the current president.
President Obama’s self-effacing and self-sacrificing platform of humble contrition allowed him to say that if the insurance companies wanted to reinstate us — the 2 or 3% of self-insured Americans whose policies they have cancelled — and if the state healthcare commissioners will approve it, then he is all for it. In one deft move Mr. Obama shifted the blame for these cancellations from himself back to their rightful source, the insurance providers, and he did so without appearing to try to pass the buck or deny his responsibility for this mess.
Of course the health insurance industry began screaming bloody murder within minutes of the president’s statements. They thought they had gamed the system to get rid of old farts like me, who are bad risks, without taking a public relations hit. Now the onus is back on them, where it has always belonged, and they don’t like it. They thought they had found a free windfall, but now they are whining that they may need to raise everyone’s rates if they have to keep people like me on their roles, again trying to blame the president for their own greed.
Well, I have good news for them. I have no intention whatsoever of remaining a client of Blue Cross, who sent this old fart a cancellation letter. I will plunge into the ACA open market and find a new provider, even if I have to pay more. Why? Well, first and foremost, because I want real insurance that cannot be cancelled or changed at the profit-mongering whim of an insurance company. If I were to remain with the grandfathered fake insurance policy, I would not have the ACA protections. I would still be in the old healthcare system, which was a lie. I would have to hide any serious conditions from them for fear of cancellation.
I am healthy now, but for 17 years I struggled with chronic Hepatitis B, and I hid it from my health insurance companies in the independent market, because I didn’t want to be cancelled and denied insurance, which is exactly what would have happened if I had let them know of my condition. Instead I paid for healthcare out of my own pocket on top of my health insurance premiums, and I sought the secret services of free clinics and university medical studies. I know many independent contractors who can tell this same story. That wasn’t insurance. I wasn’t really insured. It was a lie.
And besides, now that these virtuous and altruistic health insurance companies (sarcasm) have downgraded policies for old farts like me, it would be dangerous to keep them, because they wouldn’t provide sufficient coverage in the event of hospitalization. We need real insurance and they aren’t providing it now, even though I am paying $7,000 per year for it and I am in good health approaching age 65.
In fact, health insurance companies have never provided real insurance to the American public as a whole, while they were denying people coverage for pre-existing conditions, charging women more for the same coverage, cancelling policies when people became sick, and raising premiums 10 or 20% every year so that 40,000,000 Americans could not afford coverage. That was shameful! No civilized society behaves that way.
The only sin President Obama has committed in regard to this healthcare debacle was deciding not to direct the role-out of the ACA website personally. He thought he should delegate that responsibility to Internet experts, because he had a few other things to do — chief among them, making sure that real healthcare insurance for all Americans survived its journey through the legislative swamp of Capitol Hill. But no good deed goes unpunished, they say, and President Obama is living proof of that axiom.
I predict, however, that a year or two from now, only the most hardened right-wing ideologues will want to return to the days when nobody had real health insurance and the whole system was a lie. The Affordable Care Act will become as cherished and untouchable as Social Security and Medicare, because it will provide a pathway to health and higher quality longevity for scores of millions of middle and lower class Americans who would not otherwise be able to provide it for themselves.