In a memorable episode of the classic TV sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun, Sally the alien and Officer Don are discussing becoming intimate for the first time. The straightforward Sally asks: “Well, Don, are you ready to rock my world?’ And the nervous Officer Don gulps and responds: “Well, perhaps jostle it a little bit.”
Officer Don clearly understood the perils of overpromising. It’s a lesson that President Obama and his administration are learning the hard way these days.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans have been receiving cancellation notices from health insurers that are discontinuing existing coverage because it doesn’t satisfy all of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” It’s not clear how many people ultimately will receive cancellation notices, but experts predict that a significant percentage of those who currently buy individual coverage — between 7 and 12 million people — will be affected. Under the Act’s “individual mandate,” all of those people will need to find new insurance that complies with the requirements of the Act, either through the dysfunctional Healthcare.gov website or some other process. News sites are filled with stories about people who have found that they will need to pay much more each month for coverage, often with higher deductibles.
These people are upset because they remember President Obama’s repeated promise that, under the Affordable Care Act, if you like your insurance, you can keep it. But the statute and its regulations were written to prevent that pledge from being honored, by requiring that all insurance plans include certain forms of coverage, such as maternity care, mental health benefits, and prescription drug benefits, that were not offered by many stripped down, inexpensive plans. The inevitable result was that those plans would end and the new options, all of which include the mandatory coverage, would be more expensive for many people. Of course, when you hit people who are trying to live within their means with monthly insurance costs that are significantly higher than what they had budgeted, you’re bound to make those people angry and bitter.
It’s a predicament that the humble Officer Don would have avoided. Of course, few politicians seem to truly appreciate the perils of overpromising.