Every few days, a new poster child for the horror of Obamacare comes along, the person who just loves their insurance plan but has been told it's being cancelled. Pretty much every time, their story turns out to be full of holes—the plan they're on is junk insurance, they'd be able to get better and cheaper coverage through the exchanges, and so on (here's the latest). But without a doubt, this small group of people (and not, say, the millions who are getting free or low-cost coverage for the first time) have become the momentary face of the Affordable Care Act, at least in the mainstream news media's eyes.
So now the administration is scrambling to deal with this political problem, and here's the latest twist:
The most popular idea for a fix on the Hill is legislation that would entitle someone who purchases health insurance coverage through the end of this year to keep that coverage. Other legislative responses may include extending the health exchange enrollment deadline or or delaying the penalty for not purchasing coverage.
Obama is also considering a different approach.
According to the administration source, the White House is "looking at an administrative fix for the population of people in the individual market who may have an increase in premiums, but don't get subsidies."
Such a fix would address the issue of "sticker shock" that has been popping up across the country, as individuals are losing their coverage and finding only higher-cost alternatives. Under the ACA, there are tax subsidies to help individuals and families with income between 133 percent and 400 percent above the poverty level purchase insurance. Those with incomes higher than 400 percent above poverty get no such assistance. The proposed administrative fix would address this group.
Allowing the junk insurance plans to continue is a terrible idea, no less terrible because it's being pushed by some Democrats. But giving more subsidies? That's got some promise. As a big-government liberal, I'm all for the government helping as many people as possible afford coverage. I'm also very skeptical that the administration can just take this move administratively without an act of Congress, but let's talk about it. Since for the first time in history Republicans are suddenly so very concerned about people not being able to afford health insurance, perhaps they can be pressured into signing on with something that puts their money where their mouths are.
Fat chance, I know. But as long as we're going to start proposing fixes, how about we let everyone who got a threatening letter from an insurance company buy in to Medicare? If Republicans are going to take the opportunity to demagogue the issue, why not take the opportunity to expand our extremely popular socialized medicine program?