Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Political slogans make bad policy

So how badly will Congress fuck up the ACA over this "if you like your insurance, you get to keep your insurance" flap?

Matt Yglesias has done the best job at explaining why trying to "correct" the law to uphold Obama's promise would be a major blunder. Nevertheless, the President's line was not true and so there is a powerful incentive for people who don't understand how the law works to try to change the law to make it true that no one will lose their plan.

Actually, there is no way legislatively make the line correct. The insurance policies that people had back in 2009 all contained loopholes that allowed insurance companies to cancel their policies if the company did not think it was worth it to them. The "Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act" would force insurers to continue to offer policies that it offered before as long as the premiums are being paid. But that itself would be a change to the terms of the policy--from a policy that the insurance company could cancel to one it could not.

The Upton Amendment, the Republican bill in the House, would allow insurance companies to continue to offer policies that fall short of the ACA, it would not require them to do so. So insurance companies would still be free to cancel policies if they wanted to and the same forces in the changing health care market that are making many of these policies not worth it for insurance carriers would still exist. Which means the Upton Amendment would not prevent policies from being canceled. Probably a lot of them still would be even if the amendment became law.

Either way, the President's promise is not going to be upheld. Maybe the focus should be on how to better achieve the policy aims of providing universal affordable health coverage, rather than whether the effects of the law matches the sales pitch.