U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, has revealed on the campaign trail that his family no longer is covered by health insurance.
Naturally, he blames the Affordable Care Act: "I'll tell you, you know who one of those millions of Americans is who's lost their healthcare because of Obamacare? That would be me," he told an audience in Manchester, N.H., according to Politico. "I don't have healthcare right now."
If you pay attention, however, you'll discover that Cruz's quandary is entirely his own fault. His, and his Republican colleagues in the Senate.
[UPDATE: It turns out that Cruz actually is insured and always was, as his campaign disclosed late Friday. This makes his remark about his losing his coverage because of the Affordable Care Act look even more like pure political spin. Read on, and see more below.]
Essentially, Cruz's coverage lapsed because his 2015 carrier, BlueCross BlueShield of Texas, ended its individual PPO plans for 2016, including the family plan that covered the Cruz family. The carrier decided to move entirely to HMO plans for the individual market. And Cruz didn't manage to sign up for a new 2016 plan by Dec. 31. That happened even though the insurer announced its decision to close PPO plans way back on July 23. Five months is normally enough for an educated adult to arrange health insurance.
Cruz still has until Jan. 31 to sign up for coverage beginning March 1, and he said he'd be doing that. "We're in the process of finding another policy," he said. "I hope by the end of the month we'll have a policy for our family."
In other words, Cruz's problem has nothing to do with Obamacare and everything to do with his own sloth — unless the explanation is more sinister, as insurance expert Richard Mayhew of balloon-juice.com speculates: "The Cruz family is currently uninsured to guarantee their father a cheap laugh line."
What's more certain is that Cruz's characterization of his issue is layered with dishonesty. He claims that the new plans he has examined carry premium increases of 50% — "That's happening all over the country," he said. "That's happening in New Hampshire."
Well, no. Cruz wasn't especially forthcoming with details about his old plan or the new ones he's examining, but average rate increases in the individual market in Texas aren't anywhere near 50%. No single carrier is getting a rate increase that high; the largest is 34%, for a very tiny carrier. At some companies, including BlueCross BlueShield, some rates actually decreased.
In New Hampshire, the biggest plans had increases in the single digits. At Anthem, the largest individual insurer, some rates decreased.
It's proper to examine why Cruz is looking for insurance on the individual exchange in the first place. Until last year, the Cruz family got its coverage from his wife's employer, Goldman Sachs. But after she took an unpaid leave of absence from her job to help him run for president, they had to find coverage from his employer — the federal government.
Normally, Cruz would be eligible for the standard government health insurance plan enjoyed by all government employees. But thanks to a deliberate monkey wrench forged by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) during the drafting of the Affordable Care Act, members of Congress and their staffs are required to get their insurance through the exchanges — a biting-your-nose-off-to-spite-your-face stunt that increased the complexity of health coverage for them all, since the ACA wasn't designed to substitute for employer insurance.
Cruz is still eligible for the government's employer subsidy of up to 75% of his health insurance premium. He has said he wouldn't accept the employer share, which makes his complaint about his cost of insurance just a teeny bit more dishonest because he's the one driving up his own premium.
Cruz's lament is sadly typical of congressional critics of Obamacare, including former Speaker John Boehner, who made the claim in 2013 that his insurance rates had "spiked" because of Obamacare. It was just as bogus as Cruz's complaint, as we demonstrated here. Former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) claimed in 2014 that Obamacare had cost him his cancer doctor. Typically, his office refused to provide any details, including why the 65-year-old Coburn was using an ACA plan instead of Medicare.
That's the state of Obamacare criticism on the GOP side of the aisle. They insist they want to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. Because they can't offer any legitimate reasons to do so, they're stuck with making them up.
[More on the Cruz campaign's backtracking: A campaign spokesman told the Wall Street Journal that the Cruz family had been automatically enrolled by BlueCross BlueShield in one of its HMOs, or health maintenance organizations, as of Jan. 1, when their former PPO plan expired. The insurance carrier did this for all 2015 PPO enrollees who took no action before Dec. 31. Cruz presumably should have known this, if he was paying attention, as the insurance carrier informed all affected customers of the change.
[The campaign says Cruz has now arranged to switch to a PPO plan offered in Texas by Humana, effective March 1.]
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