July 24, 2017
Cruz Plan Allows Obama To Keep His Health Insurance Promise
“If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”
That was one of presidential candidate Barack Obama’s most effective—and least truthful—campaign promises. Indeed, Obama won Politfact’s “Lie of the Year Award”(2013) for that whopper. Ironically, the Cruz-Lee provision in the Senate health care bill could allow people to return to the policies they once had—and many desperately wanted to keep—before Obamacare effectively outlawed them.
As a candidate, Obama knew that the vast majority of Americans were happy with their pre-Obamacare policies, and so his “if you like your health plan you can kept it” ruse was intended to allay their fears.
Democrats regurgitated that slogan ad nauseam and pooh-poohed any concerns raised by health policy analysts who questioned the veracity of the claim.
Now the Left wants Americans to forget that the large majority of them were happy with their pre-Obamacare policies—policies that were canceled because they didn’t meet all of Washington’s imposed mandates.
For example, one person commented on Twitter in response to a piece I published in Forbes saying, “Ted Cruz’s ‘Freedom Plans’ won’t cover chemotherapy, pregnancy, hospitalization, or Rx medicine. What a strange way to define freedom.”
In fact, millions of people in the individual (i.e., non-group) market had coverage for all of those conditions—and more.
Blue Cross Blue Shield tended to dominate the individual health insurance market in many states for decades, and the Blues preferred selling comprehensive coverage.
In Texas, for example, Blue Cross sold a pre-Obamacare PPO policy that was comprehensive, had a reasonable deductible and affordable premiums, and patients could see almost any doctor in town. When was the last time people in the individual health insurance market could say that?
Moreover, state legislatures habitually passed insurance mandate laws requiring insurers to cover a whole range of benefits and providers. (An organization I worked with in the 2000s tracked all of those state mandates, which you can find here.) Those mandates weren’t taken off the books, and if health insurance options return to state control, as they could under Cruz-Lee, those mandates would likely be applied again.
The point is just because a health insurer isn’t required to cover the 10 essential health benefits (EHBs) mandated by Obamacare doesn’t mean the non-complying policies won’t cover anything. Currently, if an insurer were to:
- Charge a $10 copay for a contraceptive, it would be a non-complying plan.
- Charge a $20 copay for a full physical, it would be a non-complying plan.
- Allow a son or daughter to stay on a parent’s coverage until the age of 25 or 26, but only if they are considered a dependent—as most major insurers did prior to Obamacare—it would be a non-complying plan.
- Put a $5 million lifetime cap on benefits—or a $20 million lifetime cap, for that matter—it would be a non-complying plan.
But the Left and its media echo chamber have shifted into overdrive trying to convince Americans that the Cruz-Lee “Consumer Freedom Option” will leave them with nothing but lousy health insurance choices.
As adopted in the Senate Republicans’ “Better Care Reconciliation Act” (BCRA), the amendment by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) says that if a health insurer provides at least one gold and silver-level plan, it can sell other policies that consumers actually want and can afford—options that are evaporating by the day under Obamacare.
Under Cruz-Lee insurers would be allowed to create plans that consumers want, not what Washington thinks they should have. If insurers offered plans no one liked, then consumers wouldn’t buy them and they could stay with a qualified Obamacare plan.
To be sure, there are numerous other Obamacare mandates and restrictions—such as the “medical loss ratio” provision that caps insurer administrative costs—and those mandates could create roadblocks for Cruz-Lee. It’s impossible to know how all of that would play out.
But at least people might be able to return to policies similar to those they had before Obamacare scrapped them—if health insurers were still willing to sell them.
In other words, if you liked your old policy and wanted to keep it—and thought you could based on Obama’s promises—Cruz-Lee might finally let Obama keep that promise.