Bill Clinton Feeds the Anti-Obamacare Trolls: “Let Them Keep What They Got.”

My Wednesday column:

This week in an interview with OZY Media, former president Bill Clinton was asked about what’s become the central “problem” with the Affordable Care Act — that some health insurance customers who apparently like their plans have received cancellation notices. Clinton’s response was bizarre: “I personally believe, even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.”

Not only does this unnecessarily yank the rug out from under the administration while it’s in damage control mode already, but it also feeds the trolls and scaremongers who are ghoulishly delighted by this one hiccup in the system and are actively blowing it way out of proportion in order to gather support for repealing the ACA.

What do we know for sure? Most of the people who Clinton said should be allowed to “keep what they got” are paying for a big heap of crap on a stick, knowingly or unknowingly. When they receive cancellation notices, they can easily sign up for a better plan that might cost a little more, or a lot less, and which provides considerably better coverage. I’m not sure how altering the law just because one of the president’s memes didn’t work out is such a good idea.

The only real solution is to require all health insurance companies to keep existing plans in place even if the plans don’t contain any of the consumer protections mandated by the law. But one of the consumer protections in the ACA banned the practice of arbitrarily canceling policies, leaving the existing policies that people “like” vulnerable to being canceled anyway. The only way around this loophole is to revise the law so it forces the “no arbitrary cancellations” rule onto existing policies. But if you’re going to do that, why not go ahead and force all of the consumer protections into the existing policies?

The answer is obvious: because many of the policies people claim to “like,” such as junk insurance and catastrophic plans that only provide (barely) minimal benefits with very high deductibles, co-pays, annual limits and so forth, happen to have very low premiums. In most cases, that’s what they like — the low premium. But if we stumble down this tangential path in response to a presidential mistake or Republican spin, grinding our gears instead of letting the law take its course, health insurance companies would be forced to let these people keep the plans they like, but would then simply jack up premiums, co-pays and deductibles to compensate for the additional ACA benefits and consumer protections. Then what? Probably another round of outrage porn… [CONTINUE READING]

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  • GrafZeppelin127

    Disappointing to hear the Big Dog feed the trolls like that. Why doesn’t he just help the GOP pass the Nothing Will Ever Change And Nothing Will Ever Cost You Anything Act?

    Maybe this explains the whole “government takeover” thing. Maybe Republicans heard the President guarantee that anyone who liked their current insurance could keep it, no matter what, under any and all possible circumstances, and thought, OMG! It’s a government takeover of healthcare! Because really, the only way a President could plausibly guarantee that no insurance policy ever issued by any insurer to any consumer at any time now or in the past or future will ever under any circumstances be changed in any way or cancelled for any reason, is if the law made it not only illegal but impossible for an insurer to do that. Meaning, the ACA would have to actually be a “government takeover of health care” in order to make that happen.

    But since it isn’t, and since the government doesn’t directly control private insurers, there’s only so much a statute can do to prevent insurers from acting in ways that hurt consumers. Are Republicans prepared to pass a law forbidding insurers from canceling policies or raising premiums on anyone under any circumstances? Are they prepared to force insurers to insure everyone they’re insuring this year, next year, and the year after, and the year after, etc., at the same premium rate every year, no matter what happens? I think not.

    Looks like the POTUS dug himself a hole that I think, in the end, he’s not going to get out of without agreeing to essentially repeal the ACA. Everything that happens from now until the end of time is going to be blamed on that law, irrespective of how much worse it was before. He shouldn’t have made a guarantee that no law could possibly guarantee, even if it’s unreasonable for anyone to take it as such.

    What’s equally important, and equally upsetting, is that the GOP and its various fans/enablers don’t really want to get anything out of this except smug satisfaction. They don’t actually care about people’s health insurance and they certainly have no desire to fix the system in a way that gets more people insured, brings aggregate costs down and protects consumers from insurance-company abuses. As long as the insurance, biotech and pharmaceutical industries remain profitable, what happens to people is immaterial. As long as the GOP values smug satisfaction over actual policymaking, and works only to give its fans a sense of smug satisfaction and heroic victimhood instead of actually working to make good policy and improve existing policy, this is what we’re stuck with.

    • Kevin B.

      Calling Clinton the “Big Dog” annoys the hell out of me. He’s been out of office for twelve years. Knock it off.

      • GrafZeppelin127

        What? Seriously? Bugger off and get over yourself.

  • Mike_Norris

    What we are experiencing is the dog eat dog nature of the Democratic party. They eat their young and shoot their wounded. I think that Bill was distancing Hillary from the idiotic controversies the Republicans are manufacturing around the ACA. My hope is that he does not inadvertently add to “Clinton Fatigue” which will end up diminishing his wife in a way that we do not want. Adding to that, the conversation surrounding Elizabeth Warren is premature–by about eight years.

  • Christopher Foxx

    This week in an interview with OZY Media, former president Bill Clinton was asked…

    Thanks for saying “former president”. Nothing against the man, but it’s always bothered me that folks continue to be addressed as President or Senator long after they’ve left office. It’s just to feed their egos. “President Clinton” is not the President. “Senator Blutarsky” hasn’t been in office for decades.

    Sure, acknowledge their accomplishment and their service to the country None of which is diminished by including the “former” in there.

    • Lady Willpower

      Hell, they still call Sarah Palin “Governor Palin” and that makes no sense at all.

      • D_C_Wilson

        Well, Halfwit Governor Palin is a bit of a mouthful.

        • Lady Willpower

          You’re being generous.

  • Jan R.

    right on cue, my friends are blaming Clinton for this one. Because their guy is never at fault for anything.