One of the arguments made for the 2010
Not surprisingly, at least one politically vulnerable Democrat is readying a proposal to roll back the 2010 law to let people keep policies that don't meet the standards it sets. Sen.
At the root of the problem is the conflict between President
Those requirements, which go into full effect Jan. 1, don't apply to plans that people first obtained before the law's enactment and have been renewing ever since. Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of people across the country have received notices from their insurers in recent weeks telling them that their current plans are being discontinued because they don't comply with the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans and their allies have made the most of the cancellations, saying Obama's pledge was a lie. Landrieu responded to that accusation indirectly on Wednesday, telling Politico, "The promise was made, and it should be kept.... And it was our understanding when we voted for that bill that people when they have insurance could keep with what they had. So I'm going to be working on that fix."
But really, no one familiar with the law can say that they didn't see this coming. After all, the Affordable Care Act took deliberate aim at health plans that Democrats considered insufficient -- and not just in the market for individual policies. So-called mini-med plans offered by some employers ran into trouble shortly after the law's enactment because of the annual caps they place on reimbursements, prompting numerous employers (mainly in low-wage industries; one notable example was McDonald's) to threaten to drop coverage. The administration granted waivers to hundreds of these plans, but those expire at the end of the year.
The ACA also allows catastrophic-only coverage in the individual market to be offered only to those up to age 30. Such lower-cost policies have grown in popularity as premiums have risen. Now, however, anyone over 30 who signed up after March 2010 for a catastrophic-only plan will have to find a new, and probably more expensive, plan for 2014.
The prohibition stemmed from the fear that too many younger, healthier people would sign up for such plans, denying insurers the dollars needed to pay the costs imposed by sicker customers. But the flip side of the coin is worse: If the same people decide to go uninsured (and pay the comparatively small tax penalty) rather than obtain the more comprehensive coverage the law requires, they'll leave insurers with even less money and a higher concentration of sicker, riskier customers, potentially triggering a vicious cycle of premium increases and dropped coverage.
To date, both sides in the polarized debate over Obamacare have been less interested in fixing its problems than in the larger battle over killing or keeping it. So it will be interesting to see if Republicans would support a proposal that would simply give the terminated plans a new lease on life, as opposed to a broader step that would do more to undermine the 2010 law -- for example, by delaying the individual mandate to buy insurance.