Obamacare: Don't be selfish and shortsighted, buy a better plan

In an effort to placate angry (and shortsighted) Americans, President Obama announced Thursday that they could keep their substandard health insurance plans for another year so long as insurers were still willing to offer them. Never mind that these cheaper, bare-bones packages don’t meet the Affordable Care Act’s minimum benefits, undercutting a fundamental part of the healthcare law.

Yes, the Obamacare rollout has been less than ideal. But, as The Times' editorial board argued Thursday, the decision to backtrack is a bad idea. Obama basically stuck a pacifier in a crying baby’s mouth instead of heeding his 2012 campaign slogan: “Forward.” 

Here’s what the board had to say:

“The goal was not just to eliminate plans with dangerously thin coverage, as President Obama has emphasized in recent weeks, but also to spread risks and costs more broadly across the population. That meant ending plans that effectively segregated younger, healthier people from those with potentially expensive healthcare needs — for example, by excluding coverage for maternity care or schizophrenia.

“Such changes invariably produce winners and losers in the short term in the hope of better results for everyone in the long term. News accounts have been filled lately with laments from healthy people whose low-cost policies have been canceled; they complain the government is forcing them to subsidize older, sicker Americans. But they'll almost certainly be on the other side of the equation at some point, because there's no guarantee against illness and injury. The point of the law's insurance reforms was to make the market for individual insurance policies behave more like the one for large groups, in which the broad sharing of risks helps make premiums more affordable and no one loses coverage because they were unfortunate enough to get sick.”

“PBS NewsHour” introduced viewers to one such woman on the “other side of the equation” on Wednesday’s program. Martha Monsson, who has cancer and will be in the individual market when her husband’s COBRA coverage expires in February, summed it up succinctly: “People are one diagnosis away.”  

While it’s unpleasant to think about, especially when you’re young and immortal and enjoying your disposable income, who doesn’t have a nugget of fear that they’ll find themselves sick or injured and unable to pay their medical bills? Instead of complaining about contributing to a program designed to help create an equitable society, people should embrace Obamacare and purchase the more comprehensive plans.

Take it from Monsson:

“The problem, I think, is, a lot of people think that, if they're healthy, they're going to say healthy forever. And even though I had insurance, I thought I was going to stay healthy forever. People who oppose the Affordable [Care] Act very definitely don't have the bigger picture. They don't see that it can happen to them.”


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