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Policy Cancellations Threaten Promise of Obamacare

  • Brian Padden

While technical problems with the web site have plagued the initial implementation of the Affordable Care Act -- President Obama's health care program, there are other consequences of this complex system of private insurance and government subsidies that are coming to light. Thousands of healthy Americans are losing their current insurance and may have to pay higher premiums for new health care coverage.

Andrew Leonard is a 26-year-old information technology consultant. He's losing his health coverage because it does not meet the standards required under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Leonard says a new plan will cost him three times as much, and the only expanded coverage he will receive is for medical care for children.

“I don’t have any kids, and, when I do have kids, I would probably get their own insurance plan or change it at that point," said Leonard. "Why do I have to change it now?”

More than three million Americans are now losing insurance plans that do not comply with the new health care law, seemingly contradicting a promise made by President Obama during his reelection campaign that ‘if you like your health care, you can keep it.’”

Dr. Kavita Patel, a health care reform expert at the Brookings Institution, says in many cases new policies are required under Obamacare to ensure equal coverage for men and women, with children or without, to equally share costs.

“You shouldn’t have to pay more just because you are a woman, which is what had been happening before. So, as a result, we have a much more nationwide policy that does not necessarily penalize you for being a woman, and as a result of that we’ve got benefits that apply to both men and women," said Patel.

But she says these changes should not significantly increase the cost of plans and that most young people will qualify for a government subsidy when they enroll.

Critics of Obamacare, like Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, say the law is too complex and gives government too much control over the system.

“It's a law transforming our health care delivery system in the wrong direction, we believe, by increasing premiums, canceling insurance plans, destroying relationships with doctors, raising taxes," said Alexander.

Andrew Leonard says if he can’t find an affordable alternative, he may drop his insurance completely and pay a fine for not having coverage.

“I haven’t researched it enough, but if it ends up being that it is cheaper to go without health insurance, I just won’t go to the doctor most of the year. And if something happens, you know, I’ll hold off as much treatment until open enrollment comes along," he said.

Dr. Patel says these technical glitches and policy cancelations could threaten the entire system if they discourage young and healthy Americans from enrolling.

“I think all of this is causing, causes me great concern that people are now feeling that the promise about having affordable health care is not attainable," she said.

She says over time Obamacare will stabilize costs if these problems are addressed and more people enter the marketplace.