House Speaker John Boehner predicted today that by the end of October, the number of Americans whose health insurance plans were canceled because of Obamacare would outpace the number of uninsured people signing up for health insurance.
Two industry websites lend credence to the Speaker’s hunch. Kaiser Health News said on Monday that hundreds of thousands of cancellation letters had been sent out to policyholders who bought their own coverage because their policies failed to conform with the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. These provisions include a requirement that all insurance policies cover 10 “essential” benefits — such as prescription drugs, mental health treatment, and maternity care — whether the consumer needs them or not.
Among the casualties of the law are 300,000 Floridians — about 80% of its individual policies in the state — who were covered by Florida Blue but whose policies were or are in the process of being terminated. Kaiser Permanente in California has likewise sent notices to 160,000 people, which represents about half of the state’s individual business. Highmark in Pittsburgh is dropping about 20% of its individual market customers, while Independence Blue Cross, in Philadelphia, is canceling about 45% of its individual policies.
Robert Laszewski, a health care industry consultant, writes at his informative Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review that the White House’s estimate of the number of Americans who have signed up for insurance at the online exchanges is grossly exaggerated. He notes two problems with administration’s recent claim of 476,000 "applications." First the number, which includes applications filed in state-run exchanges as well as at the federal exchange, is hardly a success story inasmuch as it represents 1% of the total visitors to Healthcare.gov since Oct. 1.
A more serious issue is the administration's use of the term applications, which refers to people who have started the shopping process by signing up at the federal website and inquiring about what their subsidy is. The term seems to imply people who have actually gone on to buy insurance, a number that is radically smaller.
How small? Here is a summary by state of accounts created, total “applications,” and individuals who have actually selected a plan and enrolled in it.
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