Political Theatre, or “solution?”

Yesterday, November 14, the President made an empassioned “Mea Culpa” speech.  He “accepted responsibility” for the disaster that is Health Care Reform, acknowledged that the law is raising costs, eliminating options, and that more than 5 million are losing coverage because of it.

And then, he made it worse.  He said that he was going to allow people to keep what they have another year.  There are many things wrong with this statement, but the biggest is this – He is once again misleading the American People, and adding another layer of confusion to this mess.   Isn’t that how we got here in the first place?  Have we not had enough pain already, without giving people hope that, somehow, he could wave his magic wand and make it all go away?

Lets look at the facts:

1)  The law doesn’t allow him to do that. Congress passed this law, and they will have to amend it to allow for this to happen.  After months of denying publicly that Obamacare cannot be changed “because its the law” suddenly it can be changed?  While I doubt the republicans would be crazy enough at this point to oppose this (there is a vote today in Congress), anything is possible in a Congress with a 9% approval rating.  The only thing they can technically do, without legislation, is to look the other way…

2)  What he really said in the fine print is that he will “allow the states” to “allow the insurance companies” to let people keep plans that do not meet minimum requirements.

“The president’s proposal would allow insurers to offer plans in 2014 that were previously slated to sunset this year, but require the companies to let consumers know how — if at all — their policies don’t comply with the minimum benefits of the Affordable Care Act, according to a source briefed on the proposal.”

The problem here is that, for four years, insurance companies have spent literally billions to comply with all the mandated changes.  Now those changes are in effect, software is changed, systems and changed, staff is retrained – NOW – 45 days from full implementation – they should change everything back?

3)  Putting two “allows” into a sentence does not make this – in any way – a guarantee.  “Well, maybe the insurance companies will agree to do this, if maybe the insurance commissioners in the states and the state legislatures and the Governors allow them to.”  So what, actually, did you really do?  Any business owner knows that this is cheap talk.  “Your actions speak so loud, I can’t hear a thing you’re saying.”  There is no action being taken here.

Immediately, insurance commissioners all over the country (except California) announced they would not allow this to happen.  The National Association of Insurance Commissioners said the move “could threaten the viability of insurance markets…”.  In many cases, companies have left entire markets and have no approved products in the states where people have just been told “they can keep their plan.”  Some companies have completely gone out of the business and have no ability to “come back.”

4)  Eventually, the President admitted that, now if people couldn’t keep their plan it would be the states fault, and not the fault of the law.  So really, this is a last ditch effort to “pass the buck” and give them someone else to blame?  It would be very sad, if in fact it wasn’t so hurtful to so many Americans.

THE WORST PART of this is the timing – Employers and individuals are in the middle of making final decisions about changing their coverages.  They know have to decide if they should move forward with what we know are the new plans, new rules, and new rates – or to wait and hope that somehow this last minute change will give them a reprieve.  Employers in NY really have to make decisions in the next week about changing for 12/1 or going to the new plans on 1/1.  Individuals all over the country – already confused, unable to get onto the exchange, now have to absorb yet another confusing factor and try to interpret what it all means to them.

Call me if you have concerns or questions.  My crystal ball is still broken, but I will hold your hand as we walk through the dark forest together!