#Obamacare: Insurers know exactly what the President’s trying to do – shift the blame

You aren’t fooling anyone this time around, Mr. President.

Multiple news outlets are reporting that both analysts and insurers alike are not being fooled by the President’s move to “allow” insurance companies to keep cancelled plans for another year. First, via The Hill:

>President Obama’s new proposal to fix the problem of canceled insurance plans is reopening a fight with health insurance companies, who under the move risk getting blamed for the cancelations.

Insurance companies immediately slammed the proposal, and some observers saw a clear effort by the White House to push blame from the administration to insurers.

“You can tell where the pivot point is going to be, which is blaming insurers… by tomorrow, he and the whole team will be back to attack dog mode, ripping the insurance companies, ripping the Republicans,” said Boston University professor Tobe Berkovitz.

On Thursday, Obama did not attack insurers directly, but alluded to bad practices that characterized the market before ObamaCare’s consumer protections took effect.

“Insurance companies may still come back and say, we want to charge you 20 percent more than we did last year, or we’re not going to cover prescription drugs now,” Obama said Thursday, criticizing the old market.

“It’s important that we don’t pretend that somehow that’s a place worth going back to,” he said.

Health insurers had already denounced the White House plan before Obama finished speaking.

“Changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the [healthcare] law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers,” said Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a leading trade group.

“The only reason consumers are getting notices about their current coverage changing is because the Affordable Care Act requires all policies to cover a broad range of benefits that go beyond what many people choose to purchase today,” she added.

The back-and-forth highlights the uneasy relationship between the Obama administration and insurers that has existed since the Affordable Care Act was being written.

From the WaPo’s Wonkblog:

Health insurance plans are angry because this could screw up all their plans for the new health insurance markets. They have already set the prices they plan to charge in the 2014 insurance exchanges, and those relied on people transitioning out of their current plans (which would be phased out) and into these new, more robust plans.

Now, that might not happen. And insurers are in a bit of a tricky spot. It will look pretty bad if they don’t allow people to keep enrolling in their 2013 plans; as the president said, its a whole lot harder to blame the cancellations on Obamacare.

But if they do allow that to go forward, it could screw up the risk pool in the new insurance marketplaces by letting the younger and healthy people (who would likely stick with their skimpier plans) stay out of the exchange. They’d essentially be siphoning off the exact same customers they were hoping to woo into the exchanges. In the very worse case scenario — and probably not the most likely, since the health law has mechanisms to prevent this — the exchange could end up as something akin to a really big high-risk pool.

For insurers, at this point, they’re not really left with any great option.

And USA Today writes:

David Isenstadt has spent the past six weeks working 12-hour days, seven days a week, trying to reach all of his insurance clients with canceled policies to switch them to new policies. Now this.

President Obama’s announcement Thursday that consumers can keep insurance plans that don’t meet the Affordable Care Act for a year will only create chaos, insurance brokers, regulators and carriers say.

“To make a possible change like this now will only cause more confusion and compound the problems that the ACA is causing” on Jan. 1, says Isenstadt, who owns New England Insurance Group in Guilford, Conn.

The insurance industry is none too pleased that the onus is now on them to satisfy consumers who are outraged about their policies being canceled. Insurers and insurance commissioners don’t have to let people extend their plans, but “it will no longer be implementation of the law that is forcing them to buy a new plan,” the White House said in a fact sheet.

In other words, the White House is admitting exactly what they’re doing: Trying to shift the blame from the bad law that is Obamacare to insurers – as they were successfully doing up until a few weeks ago when the anger of the American people began to move from health insurance companies directly to the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress who shoved this bill down our throats.

Obama nor his party are fooling anyone right now, but just to be sure, if you talk to anyone about the President’s move – and they indicate they’re “happy” with what he’s trying to do, make sure you explain to them exactly why he’s doing it: Not to “fix” the bill but to bide time until the 2014 elections hit, when everything goes back to exactly the way he and his party intended it to in the first place.

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