I’m one of the million consumers in California whose health insurance was cancelled over the past few weeks. When I received my cancellation letter, I thought it was just that – a cancellation letter and nothing more. But as I read on, the insurance company clarified that my current policy didn’t meet the minimum requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), like preventative coverage and other things that as a young healthy person, I don’t really need. However, there was more.
After explaining that my policy didn’t meet those minimum requirements of the ACA, the insurance company pointed out that there was a new policy that 1) met the minimum requirements of the ACA and 2) had similar coverage and deductibles as the policy that I currently have. The letter went on to say that with this new policy, my new premium would be 52% higher than my current-soon-to-be-cancelled policy.
The letter informed me that I could consider other policies but if I didn’t choose another policy by December 15th, 2013, I would automatically be moved to the new policy they recommended. Essentially, if I do nothing, my current policy (with the addition of some preventative care measures) will continue at a higher premium to help shoulder the burden of new insureds in the system that have pre-existing conditions.
And that got me thinking. This wasn’t a cancellation letter. This was an automatic “upgrade,” albeit one I didn’t ask for, of my insurance plan for which I would have to do nothing if I chose. I wouldn’t have to fill out another application. I wouldn’t have to call anyone. I wouldn’t even have to change the auto-draft on my bank account. The insurance company would just take out a little more than what they were taking out before. Ignoring whether I needed the upgrade in the first place and ignoring the political and social narrative, the point is, my policy wasn’t cancelled. The insurance company could have easily sent me a letter saying that my policy was being upgraded, not cancelled. So why did they use such inflammatory language, language that the media quickly echoed?
This was a slap in the face to the President. The insurance companies so resented this private sector intrusion by the Federal government that they wanted to embarrass the President’s oft-repeated line that “if you like your insurance, you can keep it.” I did like my insurance plan and essentially I’m keeping the same plan even though it’s more expensive. But we all knew our insurance would be more expensive in order to cover those with pre-existing conditions that have more costly insurance needs. So instead of saying, you can keep your insurance but it’ll be more expensive to cover those with pre-existing conditions, the insurance company instead wanted to convey that the President didn’t keep his word. In effect, the insurance companies are pushing the idea that the President made new minimum standards that are forcing them to cancel existing policies…while, at the same, they are placing their customers into new policies uninterrupted.
This afterthought is being lost on Americans. My policy wasn’t cancelled. And this is coming from a registered independent that did not vote for this President, either time, and sees the Affordable Care Act as more of the Accessible Care Act, since it provides more accessibility, not more affordability. I like my insurance and I am keeping it. Along with the other 999,999 Californians whose policies were “cancelled.”