President Obama repeatedly promised, "If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period."
I wish that were true. The reality is, though, that because of Obamacare, millions of Americans who do like their plans will lose those plans. One Wisconsin couple's story is particularly moving.
He is 57; she is 60. They both have cancer. His is in remission, and hers is stage-four lung cancer. She needs costly treatment. They were both covered under Wisconsin's high-risk insurance pool. With their premium currently at $9,204 per year and out-of-pocket expenses capped at $10,000, their annual exposure is $19,204. It is costly, but they can afford it — just barely.
This will change on Jan. 1. Because of Obamacare, this couple was forced to attempt to buy new coverage on healthcare.gov. They tried more than 30 times without success. Finally, they called insurers directly — only to learn that the Obamacare plan they need will cost almost $1,400 per month. This premium, combined with a higher out-of-pocket maximum, will increase their annual health care exposure to approximately $40,000. You read that right: Obamacare will double their health care exposure. The only way this additional financial burden might be reduced is if taxpayers subsidize part of that.
Unfortunately, it's too late to help this couple. Wisconsin's high-risk pool, which was working well, will become extinct because of Obamacare. We can, however, prevent this from happening to others. We need to help millions of Americans who believed the president when he promised they could keep health plans that were working for them.
Often, these are people who bought their own coverage. They found plans that fit their needs at an acceptable price. "I like the coverage I have," as one man told NBC News last week. He can't keep it, though. More than 2 million Americans have already received cancellation notices. The insurance they found satisfactory will not satisfy Obamacare's rules. They will not be able keep their plans. Mr. Obama's promise to them has been broken.
The administration says this is because Obamacare sets higher standards for coverage. The reality is that it imposes a costly and rigid form of regulation. Under Obamacare, plans now mandate coverage that customers may not want or need — prenatal care for 60-year-olds, for example. Insurers are unable to offer some of the trade-offs for lower premiums that customers chose. Plans are required to overcharge many people to subsidize others.
All of these consequences were foreseen. About 19 million people currently buy individual health coverage. Independent experts have been predicting from the beginning that Obamacare would not permit many of those plans. Back in 2010, the administration itself forecast that between 40 percent and 67 percent of those people would lose their plans under Obamacare. Yet the president kept promising: "You can keep your plan, period."
Either Mr. Obama was completely dishonest with the American people, or he was totally disengaged and he didn't have a clue about what his own law would do. Either way, it is a stunning indictment of his failed leadership. His law is making health coverage less affordable for millions. Obamacare has a phony "grandfather" clause that ensures the president's promise will be broken.
The bill I introduced Wednesday, the If You Like Your Health Plan, You Can Keep It Act, amends Obamacare with a grandfather clause that actually works. My bill provides insurers the ability to offer plans that customers want even if Obamacare bureaucrats don't like them.
My bill restores the freedom for many more Americans to choose. Anyone who finds a better deal on the Obamacare exchange is free to take it. My bill overturns Obamacare's assumption that Americans are too stupid to know what's bad for them and that they must be forced off their existing insurance into health plans that Washington says are better, but often are just far more expensive.
My bill assumes that people who chose a plan because they liked it know what they are doing and are free to choose that plan.
The If You Like Your Health Plan, You Can Keep It Act should be supported by every Democrat in Congress who voted for Obamacare. Every supporter of the law should be asked whether he actually believed Mr. Obama's promise that Obamacare would lower costs and guarantee that people could keep their doctors and health care plans. They imposed this freedom-grabbing monstrosity on America, and they should be held accountable.
Short of repealing the entire law, it is impossible to protect every American from the harmful effects of Obamacare. The least Obamacare's supporters can do is to make sure that one of the promises Mr. Obama made is kept for as many Americans as possible.
Ron Johnson is a Republican member of the U.S. Senate from Wisconsin.