Note: This commentary first appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Lynn Larrick doesn’t fit the usual profile of someone angry with President Obama. She’s a staunch Democrat, a retired Philadelphia teacher, and a union member. But when she—like more than 100,000 Pennsylvanians—received a health insurance cancellation notice this fall, she was furious.
Larrick contacted the Commonwealth Foundation after seeing a blog post about Obamacare. “I am astonished by the depth of this deception,” she said in an e-mail. “I like my plan and want to keep it.”
But she can’t. For the last two years, Larrick has purchased her own health insurance. She chose her coverage because it was affordable and met her needs. Now she’s forced to purchase a costlier plan with fewer benefits.After making several calls to her insurer, Independence Blue Cross, Larrick was told she would never have a plan like the one she loved. Millions of Americans are in the same predicament.
Larrick believed Obama when he promised she could keep her plan. “I was a staunch Obama supporter and feel completely duped by this so-called Affordable Care Act,” she said.
More stories emerge every day. The Griffin family told the Associated Press that their monthly premiums will jump from $770 to $1,275. Living outside Philadelphia, near the Delaware border, they won’t be able to see the Delaware doctors who have cared for them for more than a decade.
It hits even closer to home for me. My mom, an insulin-dependent diabetic, got her insurance cancellation notice last month. I saw her struggle, not knowing whether she’d be able to keep her doctors, specialists, and prescription coverage – let alone whether it would be affordable. I got my own cancellation notice not long after.
Even those fortunate enough to keep their coverage are not immune from the Obamacare fallout. According to Investor’s Business Daily, hundreds of employers are cutting hours, jobs, and benefits in order to lower costs or avoid expensive mandates imposed by the federal government.
These impacts are being felt in both the private and public sectors. In addition to their own coverage and job security, parents now have to be concerned about cuts facing their kids’ schools. Investor’s Business Daily reports that 101 school districts across the country have cut hours or outsourced support staff due to Obamacare. Pennsylvania ranks second in the country with at least 384 district employees facing cuts to their hours, according to the study.
Adding insult to injury, the unions that represent these government workers enthusiastically supported the job-killing law. In the last few years, the National Education Association (which Pennsylvania teachers’ dues support) and the Service Employees International Union have both invested heavily in promoting the Affordable Care Act.
And they aren’t done: Just recently, amid thousands of insurance cancellations, the SEIU held a Halloween rally in Altoona with members dressed in white-and-black costumes to represent the beneficiaries and opponents of Obamacare. Both unions use members’ dues and PAC money, collected at taxpayer expense, to promote and enact a law that would hurt their own members, as well as anyone with a canceled health-insurance plan.
According to Duke University health-care economist Christopher Conover, 68 percent of private insurance buyers are set to lose their coverage under Obamacare’s rules. Americans from across the political spectrum are justifiably indignant.
Obama recently announced that insurance companies will be able to extend canceled plans for another year. Larrick doesn’t know if her policy will be extended but notes she’ll still have to give up her plan by 2015. She doesn’t see that as a fix at all: “No, I want it not just for a year, but until I am eligible for Medicare, because that is what I was told and what I planned for.”
As the pain from Obamacare spreads, Larrick is trying to sort through conflicting feelings. She donated to Obama’s campaign and still supports him, giving him credit for trying to help the uninsured. Still, she wants the president to own up to the country’s massive health-care mess and enact a permanent fix.
About the president’s apology, Larrick said in a phone interview, “Sorry is not good enough,” adding, “Actions speak louder than words. What I want is for them to say I can keep my plan.” Larrick demands honesty from a president she continues to support: “Just tell me the truth. . . . Don’t lie to me. Do not lie to me.”
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Dawn Meling is director of community relations at the Commonwealth Foundation
(CommonwealthFoundation.org), Pennsylvania’s free market think tank.