Monday on All-In with Chris Hayes Hayes took on the media feeding frenzy over the horror stories people have been coming forward with detailing how the President “lied” when he told them that they could keep their health insurance if they liked it.
So far every one of these stories have been proven to be less than complete, most of the people complaining have simply accepted what their current provider has told them, always that the new law requires them to drop the plan they are on and offers them a new “comparable” plan at a vastly inflated cost. If the company mentions that there are other options it is usually as a footnote to the cancellation notice.
To be sure, the President probably did not realize that many who have what Consumer Reports calls “junk insurance,” actually like the plan they have. Usually these are healthy people who have no idea how little their ‘insurance’ actually covers, they are one accident or catastrophic illness away from finding out the hard way and are happy with the plan only because it is cheap and they do not know that it will be of no use to them if they actually need it.
Hayes began the segment with a “Viewer’s Guide to Watching Obamacare Coverage:”
When you see a report about someone whose plan is cancelled and being offered a much more expensive plan you should ask, “Does the person qualify for subsidies on the newly created health exchange?”
When you see a report about someone who is losing a plan they love you should ask, “What kind of policy is this?”
When you see a story about people getting letters of cancellation “due to Obamacare” you should ask, “Is the reporter taking the insurance company at face value?”
The last point is to remember the millions that you will not hear about because they will get no letter, they are the ones who have no insurance and will still be unable to get it because their state blocked the Medicaid expansion which would have allowed them to get coverage.
Hayes was joined by Dylan Scott who wrote on the subject for TPM and Nancy Metcalf of Consumer reports to discuss the facts behind these incomplete stories.
Hayes asked Scott about what he had noticed in the letters from the insurance companies, the way that the letters are designed to get people quickly signed up for a new and much more expensive plan with little or no mention of any other option.
“There are two problems here as far as consumer advocates and state regulators are concerned, and that is the letters from insurers are leaving out two critical pieces of information. One that people have the option to go to the marketplace and shop for insurance from both these insurers and other insurers, and two if they take these kind of default options that these insurers are presenting in the letters they are not going to be able to take advantage of the financial assistance that Obamacare has to offer.”
He goes on to describe the difference in the plan offered to the woman in his story by her current insurer and the one she ultimately obtained through the exchange. Her company offered her a plan which would have cost her $1,000 per month with a more than $6,000 deductible, while the one she found on the exchange cost her, after her subsidy, $80 a month with a $250 deductible. As he said, “the difference was night and day.”
The most diabolical thing about these letters, as Scott points out, is the way they are designed to work just like the old record club scams — all you have to do is nothing. If you do nothing the company will enroll you in the plan they have chosen for you and send you a bill.
Hayes then asks Metcalf if this is becoming a widespread practice among insurance companies or if these are isolated cases by some rouge players in the industry.
“I was looking at a bunch of letters today and they are pretty much all as Dylan describes, ‘We have to cancel your plan, Obamacare made us do it, we’re going to give you a better plan that’s going to be really expensive but you don’t have to do anything’ and somewhere way down in the letter it will say, ‘Oh, by the way you can go on your marketplace.’ I saw a letter today from Anthem in Missouri that didn’t even bother to tell anybody where to find the marketplace. The point that this really brings home is that a lot of people who will benefit from this law still don’t know it.”
Hayes then asks her,
“Are they cynically using Obamacare as a way to deflect blame so they can get away with what used to be called in realty ‘panic selling folks?'”
“I think two things are going on, one, they really do have to get rid of these plans, because they are no longer going to be allowed to be sold, or renewed after the beginning of the year. But I think the other thing is they want to keep these customers.”
These are the healthy customers, the ones who will not use the insurance much, even if they pay much higher premiums.
There are some limits as to what regulators can do. Many of these companies are using technically legal methods and cannot be disciplined so the best that regulators can do is to put out an alert to warn people that there are deceptive practices being employed.
The administration is not without blame here — they should certainly be doing a better job of educating people about the law, and they allowed bureaucracy to get in the way in the process of setting up the federal exchange resulting in the problems which it is experiencing and which contributes to the suspicion among the public of the law as a whole.
You can watch the entire segment in the video below.