The GOP’s ‘If You Like Your Plan You Can Keep It’ Bills Would Still Allow Insurers To Change Your Policy

CREDIT: Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images

Republicans have seized on the wave of cancellation letters insurers are sending to beneficiaries in the individual health care market to accuse President Obama of misleading Americans about how Obamacare would affect their current policies. Some have even proposed “If You Like Your Policy You Can Keep It” Acts, which would “authorize health insurance issuers to continue to offer for sale current individual health insurance coverage in satisfaction of the minimum essential health insurance coverage requirement, and for other purposes.”

But while the bills would exempt insurers from the new minimum benefits established by health care reform, they don’t prevent companies from changing their policies voluntarily or dropping coverage — as individual plans have done for years. Consider Rep. Fred Upton’s (R-MI) proposed legislation:

Fred Upton bill

Yes, an insurer will no longer have to provide benefits for the 10 basic categories, and that will allow some number of Americans who don’t want to purchase more comprehensive insurance to stay on their current plans. But that also means that thousands more will continue to receive fairly skimpy coverage with few of Obamacare’s consumer protections and could face a hard time affording care should they actually fall ill.

As Washington & Lee professor Tim Jost put it, “This amendment would apparently permit insurers to continue to renew substandard insurance policies through 2014. It would not require them to do so, however, and it is likely that many insurers, having set their rates based on their anticipated 2014 risk pool and benefits would not go back and redo all of their rates.”

The bottom line is that absent a federal mandate for what insurers can and cannot offer, you’re left at the whim of the issuer.