Ezra Klein Still Won't Call Obama 'Keep Your Plan' Guarantee a Lie, Refers to 'Furor'

December 9th, 2013 9:01 PM

As a reminder, the Washington Post's Ezra Klein was the founder of the secretive JournoList group late last decade. Their objective was to put left-wing writers, perhaps with input from the Democratic Party itself and certain of its candidates for national office, on the same page in their coverage of the news.

That's useful to know, as on Saturday Klein published a column which might as well have been called "Obama administration talking points meant to convince readers that the President's 'If you like your health insurance plan, you can keep your health insurance plan, PERIOD' promise really wasn't that important" (Alternative title: "As the Goalposts Move"). Almost four weeks after Barack Obama owned up to the fact that his guarantee wasn't true for millions of private individual health insurance policyholders (he has yet to acknowledge the current impact on certain small employer group plans or the impending impact on large employer-sponsored plans), and given the fact that his broken guarantee is already an established fact in the historical record — no less than the Associated Press acknowledged this on September 30 — Klein's topic choice is odd indeed. Excerpts follow the jump (bolds are mine throughout this post; numbered tags are mine):

Obamacare’s real promise: if you lose your health-care plan, you can get a new one


The furor over "if you like your plan, you can keep it" touches on a deep fear in American life: That your health-care insurance can be taken from you. [1] That fear is so powerful because it happens so often: Almost everyone in the country can lose their health insurance at any time, for all kinds of reasons — and every year, millions do.

If you're one of the 149 million people who get health insurance through your employer, you can lose your plan if you get fired [2], or if the H.R. department decides to change plans, or if you have to move to a branch in another state.

If you're one of the 51 million people who get Medicaid, you could lose your plan because your income rises and you're no longer eligible or because your state cut its Medicaid budget and made you ineligible. [3] You could lose it because you moved from Minnesota, where childless adults making less than 75 percent of the poverty line are eligible, to Texas, where there's no coverage for childless adults.

If you're one of the 15 million Americans who buys insurance on the individual market, you could lose your plan because your insurer decides to stop offering it or decides to jack up the price by 35 percent. [4] And that's assuming you're one of the lucky people who weren't denied coverage based on preexisting conditions [5] in the first place.

Then, of course, there are the 50 million people who don't have a plan in the first place. The vast majority of them desperately want health-care coverage. But it turns out that just because you want a plan doesn't mean you can get one.

Virtually the only people whose health coverage is reasonably safe are those on fee-for-service Medicare and some forms of veterans insurance. And even there, enrollees are only safe until the day policymakers decide to change premiums or benefit packages.

President Obama's critics are right: Obamacare doesn't guarantee that everyone who likes their health insurance can keep it. In some cases, Obamacare is the reason people will lose health insurance they liked.

What Obamacare comes pretty close to guaranteeing, though, is that everyone who needs health insurance, or who wants health insurance, can get it. [6]


[1] — This was written by somebody who knows darned well that the very purpose of Kathleen Sebeluis's tight June 2010 grandfathering regulations was to "take" individual health plans away from people who liked them and had been guaranteed they would be able to keep them. That's what the "furor" is all about.

[2] — Millions of U.S. employees don't even realize that most of their employer-sponsored plans have lost their grandfathered status, and that they will in effect "lose" their existing plans when employer mandates take effect in January 2015.

[3] — The fact that you can lose Medicaid if your income rises (and then have to pay for health care yourself either partially if you get on an employer plan or fully if you're self-employed) explains why a lot of people aren't particularly interested in moving up the economic ladder. The cost of doing so all too often outweighs the benefits.

[4] — Written by someone who knows darned well that Obamacare plans push costs through the roof for the majority of those not eligible for subsidies.

[5] — In a Friday column at Investor's Business Daily, health system expert Betsy McCaughey pointed out that Obamacare's pre-existing conditions coverage promise has also worked out to be empty in many cases:

The people most threatened by ObamaCare have pre-existing conditions, meaning health problems that make it hard to get insurance. To sell ObamaCare, the president actually lied, claiming he would protect these people.

... Since 1996, employer-provided plans have been barred from dropping or excluding anyone based on a pre-existing condition. Nor does Medicare or Medicaid.

The pre-existing conditions problem affects about 2 million people in the individual market. The best options for these sick people are being closed because of ObamaCare.

In 35 states, they currently get coverage through high-risk pools, where premiums are subsidized to help keep them within reach. Most of these pools have long waiting lists.

But high-risk pools must close on Dec. 31, 2013, or shortly after, because the Affordable Care Act directs ill patients to enroll in ObamaCare exchange plans.

The problem is, most exchange plans severely limit their choice of hospitals and doctors, excluding academic hospitals and specialty cancer centers. State insurance commissioners are scrambling to delay closing the high-risk pools.

The high-risk pools are an honest way to subsidize care for the sick, and they've worked for twenty-five years. ObamaCare replaces them with a devious method — luring young, healthy people into exchange plans at premiums far higher than their own cost of care to offset the cost of the sick in the same pool. Exchange plans are a rip-off for the young and a dangerous downgrade for the sick.

That is — Ezra Klein, please note — people with pre-existing conditions are amog the most adversely affected by Obama's broken "you can keep your doctor" guarantee.

[6] — Horse manure, Ezra. Millions simply can't afford it. Untold numbers of others (the number isn't small but it hasn't been qualified) won't be able to see some or all of the doctors they've been seeing. Millions of others, even if they survive the two hurdles just identified, will in many cases be facing far higher deductibles than they ever saw under their supposedly "substandard" plans.

Klein's effort seems all too coordinated with the White House, which surely over time wishes to render Obama's broken guarantees — don't forget that "you can keep your doctor, PERIOD" has also been shown to be objectively false — unfortunate but immaterial statements.

In other words, for all practical purposes Klein appears to be willing to serve as an administration puppet. He wouldn't even call "you can keep your plan" the obvious multi-year lie it has obviously been. How pathetic.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.