Opinion Pieces

Daily News Guest Column: Keeping Your Health Care is a Broken Promise

One of the central promises made by the President and supporters of the new health care law was that if you liked your health care plan, under the new law, you could keep it.  Unfortunately, that promise would not be kept.  More than 290,000 policy-holding families and individuals in Washington and more than 4.8 million nationally have received notices that their current plans are being cancelled.   

The massive problems with the health care exchange websites have only compounded folks’ anxiety about the law. Since their implementation on October 1, the online marketplaces have been plagued by massive technical problems, breaches of personal information, incorrect pricing, and outages.  In Oregon, problems are so bad that after seven weeks not a single person has been able to sign up for a new health care plan online.  In Washington, only 11,740 have signed up for the qualified health plans, and the exchange needs many more signups just to stay afloat. 

When Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), an architect of the law, stated last spring that the rollout seemed like a “train wreck,” it now seems that he was being optimistic. 

Washington state resident Jessica Sanford was held up as a health care law “success” by the president during his October 21 nationally televised speech.  This week, however, Jessica became the reluctant center of national attention when it was revealed that the website misquoted the cost and her health care plan and subsidy.  Now, this 48 year old single mother is left with options she can’t afford. 

I did not support the federal health care law because I feared it would fall short of its promises, and that its unintended consequences would do more harm than good to individuals and families in Washington.  There is no satisfaction in having my fears come true.  From my own personal health care experiences, and as someone who must also find a new plan on the exchange, I worry for the moms, dads and seniors who have had the rug pulled out from under them. 

Cory, a resident of Centralia, told my office he’d been dropped from his plan, and in this exchange his monthly premiums will double.  Donna in Battle Ground is extremely worried that her premiums doubled but emergency room trips will also cost more. 

Tracey from Battle Ground was excited when Congress passed the law in 2010.  She believed it would mean more affordable health care plans for herself and her employees.  After being kicked off her old plan, however, she can no longer afford the increased premiums of a new plan.  She’ll be forced to drop health care for her employees and doubts she can afford insurance for herself.

Thad Parker, a small business owner in Chehalis, had his insurance policy canceled.  A plan similar to his old one is $289 more a month, with a $2,500 higher deductible.  Thad told me that between keeping his business afloat, providing health care for his three children and maintaining all of his employees, one will likely give.

To his credit, President Obama took action when both President Clinton and a Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives called for a sensible change to the law allowing people to keep their old plans.  While I applaud the President’s willingness to begin addressing the law’s problems, it was disappointing when officials in Washington decided to defy him and deny Cory, Donna, Tracey, Thad and Southwest Washington residents any hope of keeping their health care plans.

Such are the consequences of a law that was well-intended but so poorly designed.  It has empowered bureaucrats in Olympia and Washington, DC to become increasingly involved in health care decisions for families in Kelso, Longview, Toledo, and Woodland.  These are decisions best made by families themselves at the kitchen table or with their doctors.

Many in Congress who initially supported the law are beginning to abandon it.  More than $390 million in taxpayer money was spent setting up the broken websites and exchanges, and tens of millions more will be required to make them even semi-functional.  If middle-income and healthy individuals continue to stay away from the health care exchanges, costs will continue to rise for others. 

The reality is that for the foreseeable future, the law isn’t going anywhere.  If there are targeted fixes that will provide relief to the many people harmed by this law, I will support them.  However, if the problems persist and Americans continue to suffer under this law, I believe enough of us – Republican, Democrat, and Independent – will come together to say “enough is enough” and will finally pursue the patient-centered policy reforms that will deliver affordable, quality health care to all residents.

Read this article online at The Daily News by clicking here.