Skip to main content

A canceled health plan is a good thing

By Sally Kohn, Special to CNN
October 29, 2013 -- Updated 1936 GMT (0336 HKT)
Marilyn Tavenner testified before Congress on Tuesday about the health care exchange website.
Marilyn Tavenner testified before Congress on Tuesday about the health care exchange website.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sally Kohn: Conservatives feign shock that White House knew some plans would be canceled
  • Kohn: It's because they don't meet Obamacare's higher bar of quality benefits
  • If you lose your plan, she says, you'll have access to better and often cheaper plans
  • Kohn: Most get insurance from jobs; millions who don't will get affordable plans

Editor's note: Sally Kohn is a progressive activist, columnist and television commentator. Follow her on Twitter at @sallykohn.

(CNN) -- Conservatives are expressing shock and outrage that the Obama administration knew that many people in the individual insurance market would not be able to keep their plans once the Affordable Care Act took effect. Such shock is not surprising; overblown outrage is the stock and trade of conservative politics these days.

But here's what conservatives won't tell you, lest it undermine their theatrics: Many insurance plans are shutting down because they don't meet the higher bar of quality benefits required under Obamacare, and of those people who lose access to their plans, many will pay less and all will have better and more comprehensive options.

Also, with a few exceptions, no one is really noting that this point isn't quite news. In 2010, the fact that certain insurance plans would not be grandfathered into Obamacare because of their inadequate coverage was widely covered by the press. It was a given, after all that, if standards for health insurance were going to be raised in America -- a good thing -- then some plans that don't meet the bar would no longer be available. One could blame this on the Affordable Care Act, or alternatively, one could blame this on insurance companies for providing such substandard care in the first place.

Sally Kohn
Sally Kohn

Here's what this boils down to:

Will some people lose their current insurance? Yes.

Will these same folks lose health insurance coverage? No.

They will all have access to better plans and in many cases pay less because of expanded options and tax credits.

This whole kerfuffle ignores that insurance plans were changing all the time and premiums were skyrocketing pre-Obamacare. Suddenly, a whole range of bad behavior on the part of insurance companies is blamed on the Affordable Care Act. It's just like employers trying to shaft their workers by cutting hours and benefits and blaming it on the Affordable Care Act, even though employer mandate provisions don't take effect for another year.

Trying to blame Obamacare for every problem in the private insurance market is paradoxical: The whole reason for passing the Affordable Care Act was to fix what's broken with private insurance

If we as a nation object to the inherent and deeper flaws within the private health insurance system in America, then we should embrace a single-payer system. But instead, because conservatives were so wed to propping up the private insurance market, we got Obamacare. It's disingenuous to turn around and point fingers at Obamacare for faults that have always been -- and will always be -- pervasive in private health insurance.

The Affordable Care Act prevents some of the worst abuses of the private insurance market and makes coverage overall more inclusive and affordable. It doesn't fundamentally alter the private market equation -- and incentives to cut corners and care.

I know Republicans love their manufactured outrage, as much as they loved it back in September 2010, when Republican Sen. Mike Enzi cited the same 40% to 67% numbers for those expected to lose plans that NBC now reports as "new news." But the fact remains that about 80% of Americans get their health insurance either from their employers or from a program like Medicare, and that won't change at all under the Affordable Care Act.

Millions more are uninsured and will be thrilled to have access to affordable insurance at subsidized rates. This saves us all money, because the cost of their emergency room care isn't offloaded onto the rest of us in rising premiums. What we're focused on now is the small sliver of Americans who, like myself, get insurance through the individual market. Some of us will see our current plans disappear, but all of us will see our plans upgraded -- with many becoming more affordable.

When it comes to President Obama and his policies, conservatives have a steady supply of manufactured shock. But improving the quality and affordability of health insurance for all Americans and providing real facts along the way, that's an important accomplishment.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sally Kohn.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 2334 GMT (0734 HKT)
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 2033 GMT (0433 HKT)
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 0442 GMT (1242 HKT)
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 2043 GMT (0443 HKT)
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 0858 GMT (1658 HKT)
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT)
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1938 GMT (0338 HKT)
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2245 GMT (0645 HKT)
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1700 GMT (0100 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2301 GMT (0701 HKT)
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1335 GMT (2135 HKT)
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 0208 GMT (1008 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 2004 GMT (0404 HKT)
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1307 GMT (2107 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2250 GMT (0650 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
October 11, 2014 -- Updated 1543 GMT (2343 HKT)
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT