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(51,907 posts)
Sat Nov 9, 2013, 06:20 AM Nov 2013

Who first said, “You can keep the insurance you have”?

By Don McCanne of PNHP

Considering our national health expenditures, our health care financing and delivery systems are a disaster. It is fully apparent that the Affordable Care Act will fall woefully short of what is needed, and even offset some of the minimal gains with changes that will make many of us worse off by passing more costs directly onto us when we become ill (higher deductibles and other cost sharing), and by further limiting our choices of physicians and hospitals (shifting to narrow provider networks).

At a time that it is imperative that we address policy issues to try to straighten up our system, we abandon reason and propel forward with politics as usual.

President Obama’s political enemies, well supported by the media - including editorialists - are now expressing shock, shock that he lied to us when he told us that we could keep the insurance we have, if we like it. He was not the author of this sound bite provided to him for political campaigning, so where did it come from?

Let’s go back five years, beginning before Sen. Obama was even the Democratic nominee for president, and look at some of our Quote of the Day messages beginning then:

February 6, 2008
Is "keeping the insurance you have" your choice?

How many of you, under age 85, have the same health insurance plan that you had twenty years ago? None?

Why did you change?

What is the obvious conclusion? Health insurance coverage on a continual basis is practically non-existent in the private insurance market. In almost all of the instances listed, the insured individual was not granted the option of "keeping the insurance you have."

Most polls on health care reform continue to ask many of the same questions as they have over the past couple of decades, but there is one new question. The pollsters are now asking if you support reform that would allow you "to keep the insurance you have." For healthier individuals who believe that they have good insurance, this concept polls very well. In fact, the other questions in the polls are now tailored to reinforce this simple concept.

Health Care for America Now!
(Undated, but referenced in 2008)
Statement of Common Purpose

A choice of a private insurance plan, including keeping the insurance you have if you like it…


July 11, 2008
"Keeping the insurance you have" - Don't believe it!

Pause for a minute. Think back to the insurance you had twenty years ago. Remember? Now do you still have precisely that same coverage? Unless you are over 85 and have been in the traditional Medicare program for the past twenty years, it is highly likely that you do not.

So why do you no longer have the better coverage that you had twenty years ago? You may have changed jobs, likely more than once, and lost the coverage that your prior employer provided. Your employer may have changed plans because of ever-increasing insurance premiums. Frequently your insurer introduces plan innovations such as larger deductibles, a change from fixed-dollar co-payments to higher coinsurance percentages, tiering of your cost sharing for services and products, reduction in the benefits covered, dollar caps on payouts, and other innovations all designed to keep premiums competitive in a market of rapidly rising health care costs. You may have lost coverage when your age disqualified you from participating in your parents' plan. You may have found that health benefit programs have been declining as an incentive offered by new employers.

Your children may have lost coverage under the Children's Health Insurance Program when your income, though modest, disqualified your family from the program. Your union may not have been able to negotiate the continuation of the high-quality coverage that you previously held. Your employer may have reduced or eliminated the retirement coverage that you were promised but not guaranteed. Your employer may have filed for bankruptcy without setting aside the legacy costs of their pensions and retiree health benefit programs. You may have decided to start your own small business and found that you could not qualify for coverage because of your medical history, even if relatively benign, or maybe your small business margins are so narrow that you can't afford the premiums. You may have been covered previously by a small business owner whose entire group plan was cancelled at renewal because one employee developed diabetes, or another became HIV infected. Your COBRA coverage may have lapsed and you found that the individual insurance market offered you no realistic options. You may have retired before Medicare eligibility, only to find that premiums were truly unaffordable or coverage was not even available because of preexisting medical problems.

June 23, 2010
Will grandfathering save our current private plans?

The opponents of reform, especially the Republicans in Congress, are making a big deal out of the fact that the Affordable Care Act breaks President Obama's promise that you will be able to keep the insurance plan you have. The Obama administration is countering by publicizing the new regulations that will allow plans in place on March 23, 2010 to be grandfathered, supposedly assuring that you will be able to keep your plan if you had it on that date.

Actually, this is a silly debate. As explained in my comment two years ago, except for those individuals on Medicare or other fiscally sound retiree programs, almost no one gets to keep the insurance he or she has. Rather than stabilizing existing coverage, the regulations that would grandfather plans make it less likely, in an environment of increasing health care costs, that existing plans would continue to be offered without significant changes.

In an effort to make the insurance plans more affordable, further adjustments in deductibles and coinsurance are almost inevitable, and the ever-changing insurance marketplace will surely result in changes in insurance companies selected. Insurance price shoppers, who are mostly healthy, will be much more sensitive to size of the premiums than they would be to cost sharing; this is precisely what has happened throughout the individual market. These pressures would accelerate the decline in grandfathered plans.

"Keeping the insurance you have" was only a slogan used to market the reform proposal. It wasn't a serious long term strategy. Instead of wasting time in another political dogfight - this time over grandfathering - we should move forward with supporting policies that will work for everyone - like a single payer national health program.

Comment, November 8, 2013:

Is that the best lesson that we can learn from President Obama’s decision to accept the recommendation of his political advisers to use the sound bite, “You can keep the insurance you have, if that’s what you want”?

The fact that this is the framing of the current keep-the-insurance-you-have discourse demonstrates not only how acrimonious the Washington political environment has become, it also shows the ineptitude of the media. Not only do they buy this framing when there is a far more compelling message in this mess, they also serve as dupes, propagating the biting, counter-productive message of the Obama opponents.

Repeating my comment from 2010, “Instead of wasting time in another political dogfight… we should move forward with supporting policies that will work for everyone - like a single payer national health program.” That’s the lesson we should learn.

12 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
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(52,791 posts)
1. Much too true and "wordy" for the soundbite crowd.
Sat Nov 9, 2013, 06:23 AM
Nov 2013

You might more easily counter the "You can keep your insurance" baloney with

"You call THAT insurance?"


(52,791 posts)
4. not a commentary on your post..
Sat Nov 9, 2013, 06:37 AM
Nov 2013

(which is 100% coorrect)

just a note on the meme fight, which seems to always have more weight than, you know, policy or facts...


(276 posts)
7. Obama's Lie compared to the Right Wing "Death Panels and more" lies is a small one
Sat Nov 9, 2013, 08:54 AM
Nov 2013

with a very different intent - to reassure people that the huge new Heath Care plan would not separate them from their doctors (and this part is true) and the plans they think are good. On the other hand the Right Wing multitude of lies had the intent of frightening people into opposing healthcare for millions of their fellow Americans who had none. So why is only Obama being called out and when will the House and its ideologues apologize to the American people for all the damage they have done?


(51,907 posts)
12. ACA will not separate people from their doctors, but--
Sat Nov 9, 2013, 01:36 PM
Nov 2013

--private insurance fucking well will, as they have been doing for many years.



(45,319 posts)
8. Who first said this?
Sat Nov 9, 2013, 08:54 AM
Nov 2013

"Any plan I sign must include a public option to increase competition and keep insurance companies honest - and choose what's best for your family."

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