About Those Obamacare Cancellation Letters

Obamacare cancellation letters are in the news today, after a scathing report by NBC rapidly made its way across the blogosphere and into other mainstream outlets.

According to the shocking Obamacare cancellation letters report, millions of Americans previously told they’d be able to keep their coverage as the ACA kicked in received a letter from their insurer, informing them the plan would be cancelled due to its lack of compliance with the provisions of sweeping healthcare reforms.

As the news “broke” that Obama and his flunkies had “lied” about Obamacare not canceling your existing plan, watching the story traverse media outlets was bizarre to say the least. The ongoing debate over Obamacare rages despite its trenchant survival against political challenges up to and including a lengthy government shutdown in a desperate last-minute bid to kill Obama’s health care law.

Naturally, a story validating the confirmation bias of opponents would be good for traffic, page views, and viewing stats — but did Obama really lie about the “if you like your plan you can keep it” thing as he pushed for the ACA’s historic passage?

Not hardly. There are many reasons why this story is at best unintentionally misleading, and at worst, meant to appeal to unfounded and widely held fears that your doctor is moving to the DMV.

An early and concise rebuttal was tweeted out by the White House’s Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz, and TPM basically got the size of it — while not touching on the regularity and capriciousness with which this happened in the past, the piece does describe the Obamacare cancellation letters with a more honest precision, explaining:

“What’s happening in most of these cases is that is that people are being notified that they’re being automatically rolled over into new policies, which pretty much by definition provide fuller and more complete coverage… An accurate way to portray what’s happening might go like this: Millions of people are finding out that they’re being rolled over into new policies that provide fuller coverage. But some may end up paying more, even after the subsidies that the law provides.”

Before NBC broke the non-story wide open, PolitiFact looked at this claim as it headed up the flagpole, and similarly declared it grossly and even purposefully misleading — deeming it “mostly false.”

White House staffers tried to stem the tide of misinformation after the Obamacare cancellation letters story hit, saying:

Later Tuesday, Margaret Tavenner of the Centers For Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS), explained that the claim Obamacare cancellation letters were an issue was misleading, and said:

“… if you were in the individual market you were living at a 50 percent churn. Half of the people in the individual market prior to 2010 didn’t stay on their policies. They were either kicked off for pre-existing conditions. They saw their premiums go up at least 20 percent a year.”

While the Obamacare cancellation letter stories are indeed resonating with those who feared plan changes, the fact of the matter is that nothing in Obamacare prevents insurers from complying — nor does any part of it change the fact that plans can and could always be cancelled at the whim of the insurer.