In last night’s final presidential debate, former vice president Joe Biden said the following:
False. Completely make believe.
On a personal note from the author of this post, yours truly, I know for a fact that this is a false statement… I’ve got my insurance cancellation letter from October 2013 to prove it. As the kids like to say, “I have the receipts.”
My cancellation notice said, “Since your current plan does not conform to these new mandates [in the ACA], your current plan will cease on your anniversary date, and you will be required to select a new ACA-compliant plan in order to continue your coverage.” Certainly didn’t sound like a thing I was choosing to do… And common sense would tell you that no one in my position would choose to select a new plan with both a higher deductible and higher premiums (almost double), given that I was satisfied with the plan I had before.
And I’m not alone. Millions of other Americans received similar notices. Their plans ceased to exist, and they were faced with basically two options: Buy a new, ACA-compliant plan or go without coverage.
Politifact already debunked President Obama’s false promise that “if you like your plan, you can keep it.” With this oft-repeated phrase, the then-President earned Politifact’s “Lie of the Year” designation. Quite the prize.
I’m sorry to see Joe Biden repeat this falsehood, especially when it is so easy to disprove. Even worse, he did so in a forward-looking way, saying that no one would lose his or her private insurance under Biden’s proposed plan, which would establish a public option. This is no more credible than the claims President Obama and others made preceding the Affordable Care Act.
A public option would unfairly compete against private insurance plans and drive some private insurers out of the market. The ACA caused many small insurers to exit markets all over the country, leaving consumers with fewer options. When the public option ultimately becomes the only option, it’s no longer optional. Unless you consider going uninsured a viable option for you.
There’s plenty to debate about healthcare policy and the impact of the ACA. Biden could focus on the Americans who were helped by the law — they exist — or he could explain the Obama Administration’s position that the new coverage requirements were supposed to improve the quality of coverage by forcing people like me to switch to more robust plans (even if we didn’t want to).
But he could do the above without positing that no one lost coverage due to the ACA. As all health reformers know (on both sides of the aisle), it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to craft reform legislation that does not cause interruptions and changes to health coverage. “Reform” is, by definition, change.
For many people, the ACA meant change for the worse. Rather than pretend we don’t exist, Biden and other leaders should simply focus on how to make things better now.