A blockbuster NBC investigative piece published Tuesday night reports that the Obama administration has known for three years that between 40 percent and 67 percent of those buying insurance on the individual market would lose their old insurance plans. The thing is, NBC's scoop is from 2010. As Igor Volsky at Think Progress noted today, the Department of Health and Human Services reported three years ago that "40 percent to 67 percent of individual policies will lose grandfathered status by 2011," and Republican senators like Mike Enzi pushed to get the grandfather clause removed in 2010.
NBC reports that the Obama administration knew most of the 14 million insurance plans purchased on the individual market wouldn't be grandfathered. (That doesn't include the 150 million people who get their insurance from an employer and the 47 million uninsured as of 2012.) In a report published last night, Lisa Myers and Hannah Rappleye wrote:
Buried in Obamacare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, “40 to 67 percent” of customers will not be able to keep their policy. And because many policies will have been changed since the key date, “the percentage of individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year exceeds the 40 to 67 percent range.”
That means the administration knew that more than 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them.
NBC enlists several "sources" and "experts" for the story, but unfortunately several new organizations, including The New York Times, beat them to it by about three years. As the Times noted way back when, plans lost their grandfather status by burdening customers:
Under the [grandfather clause], a health insurance plan can lose its exemption if it eliminates all benefits for a particular condition or if it increases deductibles or co-payments by more than the rate of medical inflation plus 15 percentage points.
Though employer-sponsored insurance was the focal point of the argument in 2010, the same rules apply for individual plans. Plans that changed between 2010 and 2013 and aren't compatible with the Affordable Care Act are now illegal, and people are being offered new plans. For its part, the White House is arguing that insurers, not the Affordable Care Act, are forcing people off their plans by changing the policies, notes Politico. A few White House officials took to twitter to denounce the NBC story, but Myers, author of the NBC story, and White House principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest had a bit of a back and forth:
What Myers means is that the Obama administration knew that there's high turnover in the marketplace due to costs and other reasons. Because of that turnover, people's plans didn't meet the requirements for the grandfather clause, which Myers believes the administration knew. The problem is that the president said repeatedly that "If you like your plan, you can keep it." That wasn't exactly true, so at least Myers and Rappleye got that right. Better later than never.