My lack of interest in sports is well-nigh complete. Please don't bother making small talk with me by asking whether I “saw the game last night.” Nevertheless, even I remember Casey Stengel's lament about his wretched New York Mets: “Can't anybody here play this game?” Stengel's question sometimes echoes in my head whenever I see another fumble by the Obama administration. (Yeah, I know: “fumble” is football. Did you forget that I don't care?)
Obama and company could stand to be a little more aggressive in the face of constant carping, petty backbiting, and outright lies. The president has been largely content to allow tea-stained critics to denounce him for “lying” about his statements that the Affordable Care Act would allow individuals to keep health insurance plans they liked. A little push-back would have been a good thing, instead of stoically accepting so much abuse and then apologizing.
In particular, I'm thinking Obama should have cited chapter and verse from the healthcare reform legislation itself. Yes, the measure is big and unwieldy (and Republicans like to pretend that no one knew what was in it despite months of delays and debates), but it's not impossible to look things up if you have specific questions. Have you ever read Sec. 1251? Did you even know it exists? Check it out:
SEC. 1251. PRESERVATION OF RIGHT TO MAINTAIN EXISTING COVERAGE.That's right. The provisions of the healthcare act expressly establish a person's right to keep a health plan! The language is clear and explicit. In what way, then, did the president lie? Why, then, are people losing their current plans despite Sec. 1251?
(a) NO CHANGES TO EXISTING COVERAGE.
(1) IN GENERAL.—Nothing in this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) shall be construed to require that an individual terminate coverage under a group health plan or health insurance coverage in which such individual was enrolled on the date of enactment of this Act.
(2) CONTINUATION OF COVERAGE.—With respect to a group health plan or health insurance coverage in which an individual was enrolled on the date of enactment of this Act, this subtitle and subtitle A (and the amendments made by such subtitles) shall not apply to such plan or coverage, regardless of whether the individual renews such coverage after such date of enactment.
(b) ALLOWANCE FOR FAMILY MEMBERS TO JOIN CURRENT COVERAGE.—With respect to a group health plan or health insurance coverage in which an individual was enrolled on the date of enactment of this Act and which is renewed after such date, family members of such individual shall be permitted to enroll in such plan or coverage if such enrollment is permitted under the terms of the plan in effect as of such date of enactment.
(c) ALLOWANCE FOR NEW EMPLOYEES TO JOIN CURRENT PLAN.—A group health plan that provides coverage on the date of enactment of this Act may provide for the enrolling of new employees (and their families) in such plan, and this subtitle and subtitle A (and the amendments made by such subtitles) shall not apply with respect to such plan and such new employees (and their families).
Simple. Nothing forces the insurance companies to continue to offer those plans. Sec. 1251 has an invisible and unanticipated qualification: You can keep your current plan if your insurance company doesn't cancel it! The Obama administration cared enough to put the language of Sec. 1251 in the bill, but it failed to anticipate how many insurance companies would use the measure's enactment as an excuse for immediate cancellation of plans that don't meet Obamacare standards. Are we grandfathered in for a period of time? Who cares? We insurance companies sure don't!
Perhaps the president needs a little help in rebutting his critics, but it's probably too late for him to deliver the following short speech I just drafted:
Let me remind you again that nothing in the Affordable Care Act requires anyone to terminate a current health plan that does not initially meet the requirements of healthcare reform. They were grandfathered in. Unfortunately, the many people who were tossed aside by their insurance companies have not had ready access to a fully functioning health care website in order to seek out their most affordable alternatives. We are committed, however, to rectifying the situation and improvements are being made every day. We will stay the course and get the job done. In the meantime, whenever you hear someone screaming about the supposed lies and failings of healthcare reform, be sure to ask them what they are doing to help, besides just making baseless accusations. Thank you.