More than two dozen times since 2008, President Obama said that under Obamacare “if you like your present health insurance plan, you can keep it. Period.” He made that promise over and over despite warnings from his senior aides that it could not be kept, despite the clear text of the law, despite the obvious meaning of regulations issued by the Secretary of Health and Human Services he appointed, and despite the fact that he was on video estimating that as many as eight million people would not be able to “keep it. Period.”
So now along comes Obama to announce an “administrative fix” for the cancellation of health insurance coverage that millions of people would like to keep. At last count, an estimated five million people have received cancellation notices and, notwithstanding Obama’s “fix,” there will be millions more between now and the November 2014 elections.
Shorn of the political fog of the White House press room, Obama's “fix” is nothing more than a restatement of his infamous promise that “if you like your present coverage, you can keep it,” only this time he's directing it at the insurance companies issuing the cancellations. Those cancellations were mandated by Obamacare and have been in the offing ever since the law was passed in 2010. That's because insurance is heavily regulated by state governments that allow insurers to only offer plans with approved benefits at approved prices. It is common for a company seeking a premium increase or benefit change to begin the process of seeking approval more than a year before it can be implemented.
As the Washington Examiner's Philip Klein explained shortly after Obama announced the "fix" at a news conference, the Department of Health and Human Services issued regulations on June 17, 2010, that defined the minimum requirements every policy must meet under Obamacare and thus made the current cancellations unavoidable. At that point, insurers began putting together the pieces of their new products and determining how much they would cost. The insurers then submitted the new insurance packages to state regulators for study and eventual approval.
“Put another way, insurers began canceling plans because Obamacare made those plans illegal. Now, just six weeks before the start of the new insurance year, Obama is telling insurers that the policies they were told would be illegal are no longer illegal. … But, after 41 months of planning for one scenario, how do insurers put toothpaste back into the tube in the next six weeks?,” Klein wrote.
State insurance regulators are not obligated to recognize Obama’s “fix.” If they do recognize it, they risk creating administrative and legal confusion that could take years to resolve. “It is unclear how, as a practical matter, the changes proposed today by the president can be put into effect,” said Jim Donelon, president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.