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EDITORIAL: The Obamacare omelet

Millions are losing their insurance, and the White House knew they would

- - Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Americans who like their doctor and health care plans are out of luck. Despite the emphatic promises he made not so long ago, President Obama's new message, made in so many words, is the equally emphatic "You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs." The Obamacare omelet is accompanied by the hash the president is making of the coverage so many people wanted to keep.

NBC News reported Monday that the Obama administration "has known for at least three years" that millions of Americans would get cancellation notices from their insurers, with all thanks to Obamacare. Four sources cited by the network estimate that between 50 percent and 75 percent of the 14 million Americans who buy their insurance individually will lose their coverage next year. The figure, in fact, could be closer to 80 percent. The new policies they must buy will be more expensive — often a lot more.

Right up to the Oct. 1 rollout of the healthcare.gov website, the president minced no words in giving reassurance. "No one will take it away," he said in 2009, "no matter what." Even this week, the health care page on the whitehouse.gov website still insists: "If you like your plan, you can keep it, and you don't have to change a thing due to the health care law." There's already a provision in the law grandfathering existing policies, but the Department of Health and Human Services has carefully crafted regulations to bypass the provision, by excluding any policy that has been modified in any way. But the president, who knows words, said, "no matter what."

CBS News counts at least 2 million Americans who will be booted from their coverage. That tally includes 279,000 in California, 140,000 in Michigan, 300,000 in Florida, and 800,000 in New Jersey. "What I have right now is what I'm happy with," says Dianne Barrette, 56, of Florida, who told CBS that she was informed her health care plan didn't meet Obamacare standards. Her new plan would cost 10 times more than the $50 a month premium she pays now. "I just want to know why I can't keep what I have."

A lot of eggs are going into the Obamelet, and the administration continues to pretend everything is on the way to OK. "Nothing in Obamacare forces people out of their health plans," Valerie Jarrett, the president's senior adviser, tweeted Monday night. "No change is required unless insurance companies change existing plans." This is not true. It's Obamacare that's forcing the insurance companies to "change existing plans." The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday will try to get a straight answer from Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, who oversees the implementation of the health care law.

The committee chairman, Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, has introduced legislation to make the president's initial promise an undisputed matter of law. The simple two-page bill states that any individual market coverage in effect on Jan. 1 is automatically grandfathered, with no exceptions. Mr. Obama promised he would be a man of his word, so we can be sure he will sign this into law.