Cutting the Heart Out of Health Reform

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from The New York Times,

It’s easy to be mad at President Obama over health care reform – the broken website, the confusing choices, his false promise that everyone could keep their current plans.

But it’s still hard to fathom why 39 Democrats voted for a bill in the House that would allow people to retain current, substandard individual policies, and renew them next year even if they don’t provide the basic coverage required by the Affordable Care Act. (You have to wonder, to start, whether they actually read the act before they voted for it, the same question I’d like to ask of Mr. Obama and his team. The changed requirements were in that law.)

Perhaps it was just a protest vote, a freebie based on the lawmakers’ certainty that the Senate will never take up or pass this ridiculous bill. But did those Democrats know what they were voting for this time around?

It’s impossible to accept the votes as a desire to fix the particular problem of people who got cancellation notices for individual plans.

For one thing, if those people could not get on the federal exchange, they might have been able to go to state-run exchanges but live in states where Republican governors refused to set them up. For another, the bill passed by the House today on a vote of 261-157 is not about providing a temporary fix. It is intended to cut the heart out of the health care reform program by allowing people to go on buying substandard policies next year.

Many of those policies are an illusion with catastrophically high deductibles and out-of-pocket spending ceilings. Take the insurance that the right-wing group Generation Opportunity was hawking last month. As Juliet Lapidos wrote here on Oct. 28, the $40.84 a month plan did not cover office visits for primary care doctors or specialists. It has a $10,000 a year deductible and if you ended up in the emergency room, you would have had to pay 20 percent of the bill after the deductible. The same applied to outpatient surgery and hospitalization.

There’s another word for that – bankruptcy.

It may well be that insurance bought on the new exchanges costs more, but it will provide real coverage.

The insurance industry has already reacted to the idea of restoring cancelled policies, which Mr. Obama proposed on Thursday. It “threatens to undermine the new market, and may lead to higher premiums and market disruptions in 2014 and beyond,” said Jim Donelon, Louisiana’s insurance regulator.

So, if your Congressman is one of these 39 Democrats who voted for that mess today, you might want to ask why.

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