THE ISSUE: If I like the coverage I have, would I really be able to keep it if Washington changes the health care system?
THE POLITICS: One of the underlying fears in the debate is that people with good insurance now will see changes they don’t like in a new marketplace. Perhaps their plan would become even more expensive, or offer fewer benefits, or their employer would drop coverage in favor of other options for workers. President Barack Obama and his allies must convince Americans that the proposed gains for the uninsured and the underinsured won’t unravel a system that protects most people most of the time. Obama argues the changes will bring down costs for those who already have insurance, and he promises that if you’re happy with your coverage now, nothing will require you to change it.
WHAT IT MEANS: Obama and fellow Democrats favor requirements to make most people buy insurance, and subsidies and rules to make that happen, but it’s beyond the government’s ability to guarantee plans would stay the same for everyone who wants that. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office looked at the health care bill written by House Democrats and said that by 2016 some 3 million people who now have employer-based care would lose it and have to get coverage themselves. In return, that plan and others in Congress would vastly reduce the ranks of the uninsured. Even so, the bills under consideration propose some steps to protect the status quo for those who want to keep what they have. Legislation contains “firewalls” to prevent employees under certain workplace plans from undermining them by bolting to other options in the marketplace. But even under a reshaped system the government would have limited ability to prevent employers, who cover the majority of Americans under 65, from changing the kind of health plans they offer — and new taxes and requirements in the system might prompt some employers to do so.
_ Cal Woodward
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