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A feature, not a bug
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By Rick Holmes
Nov. 17, 2013 5:15 p.m.

I find myself differing from the conventional wisdom, and even Obama’s latest position, in not being terribly upset that it’s Open Enrollment time for health insurance.† Employers are advising employees of their health care options for 2014, many of them different from what was available a year ago.† Insurance companies are advertising their latest deals on Medicare companion policies. And in the individual market, insurers are advising their customers of what they have – or don’t have – available.
Writing in the MWDN, Frank Mazzaglia gives the typical spin: “The unbearable pain began when millions of Americans found their health plans cancelled. Why? Well, the insurance companies had no choice. The Affordable Care Act required all policies to cover a broad range of benefits that went far beyond what the people who chose those policies wanted or needed. To meet the Affordable Care Act’s new requirements, those unwanted benefits would have needed to be included. That, of course, meant higher premiums. It also left many people furious at having to pay a lot more for Ďbenefitsí they didnít want.”
Benefits like hospitalization, life-saving prescriptions or therapy. Consumer Reports, told the story in 2009 of Janice and Gary Clausen of Audubon, Iowa:
They told us they purchased a United Healthcare limited benefit plan sold through AARP that cost about $500 a month after Janice lost her accountant job and her work-based coverage when the auto dealership that employed her closed in 2004.
“I didn’t think it sounded bad,” Janice said. “I knew it would only cover $50,000 a year, but I didn’t realize how much everything would cost.” The plan proved hopelessly inadequate after Gary received a diagnosis of colon cancer. His 14-month treatment, including surgery and chemotherapy, cost well over $200,000. Janice, 64, and Gary, 65, expect to be paying off medical debt for the rest of their lives.
As I try to explain in an editorial today, phasing out lousy policies like the Clausens’ is a feature, not a bug.† It’s an important part of fixing the individual insurance market. People who care about a better health care insurance system shouldn’t be running away from them.
When Obama unfortunately said “if you like your insurance you can keep it,” I never thought that meant nobody’s insurance would never change. Because, as I’ve said in a previous thread, Obama also said:
- There can be no more lifetime caps on coverage.- There can be no co-pays for preventive care.- Insurance companies canít charge higher rates to women.
- You canít be turned away for pre-existing conditions.
Those provisions and more change the way the insurance industry serves the individual market, and no one should be surprised Ė or outragedĖ that insurance policies change as a result.
You canít bring change without some things changing for some people. The idea is that, once these changes kick in, most people will end up with better insurance than they had before. Why not wait and see if that happens?

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