Wednesday, October 14, 2015
It's deja screwed all over again.
In the fall of 2013, our family received notice from Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Colorado that we could no longer keep our private health insurance plan because of "changes from health care reform (also called the Affordable Care Act or ACA)."
We liked our high-deductible preferred provider organization plan that allowed us to choose from a wide range of doctors. But Obamacare wouldn't let us keep it. Reluctantly, and after great bureaucratic difficulty, my hubby and I enrolled in an individual market plan with Rocky Mountain Health, which offered a much narrower provider network than the Anthem PPO plan we had before the feds snuffed it out.
Thanks to "reform," our two kids' dental care was no longer covered, and we had our post-Obamacare insurance turned down at an urgent care clinic -- something that had never happened before.
This summer came another bombshell.
In August, we were informed of the "discontinuation of your Rocky Mountain Individual and Family plan effective December 31, 2015."
Over the past month, we have received several bold-faced notices alerting us that "IMPORTANT ACTION IS REQUIRED: YOU MUST CHOOSE A NEW INDIVIDUAL & FAMILY PLAN TO MAINTAIN YOUR HEALTH COVERAGE IN 2016." The clock is ticking: open enrollment begins Nov. 1.
The coerced choices are pretty damned crummy. Individual market PPOs have evaporated. We are being shoved once again toward the Obamacare government health insurance exchange vortex known as Connect for Health Colorado (which should really be called "DISconnect from Health Colorado). Or into a narrow regional HMO.
So much for "If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what," eh, Mr. President?
Obama lied and our health plan has now died -- twice.
Progressives sneered at millions of us who received the first round of individual market health plan death notices. Mother Jones called it the "phony canceled health insurance scandal" when I first reported my 2013 health plan homicide by Obamacare.
But it's real, it sucks, and we know we are not alone among the estimated 22 million other Americans who purchase health insurance directly on the ever-shrinking individual market.
In Illinois, Blue Cross announced it was eliminating its most popular individual plan with the largest network of doctors and hospitals of any of its offerings, Blue PPO. More than 170,000 enrollees will have to scrounge up an alternative. Customers are panicking, and insurance broker Mike Troha told the Chicago Tribune last week:
I wouldn't be shocked if all the PPOs are gone in a few years in the individual markets.
Last month, the Maryland Insurance Administration approved premium rate increases for small group and individual health insurance plans effective next year, with some rates spiking by double digits thanks to "significant changes in regulation and market dynamics over the past two years."
Remember: One of the reasons for those rate hikes is that Obamacare's mandated benefits provisions force insurers to carry coverage for items that individual market consumers had deliberately chosen to forgo. Americans who had willingly and willfully opted for affordable catastrophic coverage-style plans now have fewer and fewer choices.
In Texas, some 300,000 individual health insurance subscribers are watching their plans disappear and their access to specialists. In New Mexico, the state Obamacare exchange ended all of its PPO offerings in favor of HMOs. And in Arizona, Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna and Meritus are all dropping PPO plans offered to tens of thousands of individuals and families.
As the Arizona Republic's editorial board noted this weekend, "Rosy predictions of cost savings bandied by advocates five years ago are now running into the harsh economic reality of unanticipated consequences." Hospitals are consolidating. Doctors are quitting their private practices or hitching themselves to the big hospital wagons. "And bigger means fewer options. Only a handful of critics predicted in 2010 that one consequence of Obamacare would be the return of HMOs. But, in retrospect, no one should be surprised."
In other words: The destruction of the private health insurance market is going exactly according to plan and as many of us warned.
Michelle Malkin is author of the new book "Who Built That: Awe-Inspiring Stories of American Tinkerpreneurs." Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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