The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed today charging that the Affordable Care Act will prevent people from keeping their current health plan and limit their choices. However, this ignores the realities of health reform.
First, the 150 million Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance—who make up the vast majority of those with private health insurance today—will not see major changes to their coverage. For this group, the Act does include some important protections and enhancements, such as coverage for young adults up to age 26 and the elimination of annual limits on covered health costs. However, at the end of the day, employer-sponsored insurance will be improved but still look much the same as it does now.
Second, I agree with the WSJ op-ed that the Affordable Care Act’s biggest changes will be for the individual market, but with the opposite conclusion. The fact of the matter is that the individual market does not work well now—it features high prices and not enough choice, and too many Americans are left with poor or no health insurance because of this. The Affordable Care Act establishes minimum standards for health plans; creates transparent and competitive markets from which consumers can buy insurance; and helps those who can’t afford insurance coverage to purchase it.
A key point to remember is that while the Act makes many changes to the individual market, it specifically allows those who want to keep their current insurance to do so. Most of the Act’s protections apply only to new policies, allowing people to stick with their current plan if they prefer. It is true that a few protections apply to all plans, both new and old, but these protections—like limiting the share of premiums that insurers can devote to administrative costs—are designed to help consumers and cut health care costs.
The bottom line is that the Act allows people to keep the insurance they have, while also providing more and better options for all.
Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President for Special Projects