Despite Promises, Obamacare May Force You to Change Insurance

Many Americans will lose their employer-provided health insurance coverage after the terms of Obamacare are fully implemented

By + More

There are many candidates from which to choose Barack Obama's "signature promise," something akin to George Herbert Walker Bush's "Read my lips. No new taxes."

Some may argue it's his guarantee unemployment would not rise above 8 percent if Congress passed his economic stimulus package. Others might suggest it's the oath he made not to hire lobbyists to work in the White House. A few even might even pick his commitment to shut down the terrorist detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. For my money, however, it's the assertion he made over and over again that anyone who liked the health insurance he or she had would be able to keep it after his reform package became law.

[See a collection of political cartoons on healthcare.]

Healthcare reform or, as it is commonly referred to, "Obamacare" is the president's most significant achievement, even if a majority of the American electorate dislike it intensely.

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found Americans opposing the law 52 to 41 percent, with 67 percent saying they would approve if the U.S. Supreme Court declared all or part of it unconstitutional. A CBS News/New York Times poll from late March had 47 percent of Americans disapproving of Obamacare, including 30 percent disapproving "strongly" while only 36 percent said they approved of it at all.

Part of the reason for it's lack of popularity may be that, whether intentionally or in a fit of political hubris, the president and his allies oversold the package—both while it was being debated in Congress and in the days, weeks, and months since it became law. Which brings us full circle to the "signature promise"—the part about those who liked their health insurance being able to keep it.

[Read the U.S. News debate: Should the Supreme Court Overturn Obama's Healthcare Law?]

According to this chart, prepared by The Heritage Foundation—the conservative organization that many liberals like to point out is the one that originally thought up the individual mandate—anywhere between 11 million and 35 million working Americans will lose their employer-provided health insurance coverage after the terms of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are fully implemented.

The estimates come from a variety of sources and should not, in fact, be surprising. As the new law allows employers to shift the ability to provide coverage to other entities—like the state-based exchanges Obamacare creates—they will do so. It makes perfect economic sense and is a predictable consequence, meaning people should have seen it coming and should have known that, while the new law might not force people to change their coverage—to mandate that they do so—the real world realities are such that for many people the coverage they have will cease to be offered. Someone as smart as President Obama is reputed to be would have most assuredly known that, putting his "signature promise" somewhere between insincerity and outright fabrication. The voters will determine where it comes down at election time.

  • Photo Gallery: Supreme Court Hears Healthcare Reform Arguments
  • Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insiders guide to politics and policy.
  • Follow the Thomas Jefferson Street blog on Twitter at @TJSBlog.