Weekly Column by Lamar Alexander: Putting the President’s Health Care Promise Into Law

Posted on November 13, 2013

On Nov. 5, I called on the Obama administration to put into law the president’s promise that “if you like your plan, you can keep it.”

Barack Obama made that promise as a candidate for president, repeated it time and time again after he was sworn in as president to convince Democrats in Congress to pass the law, and he repeated that promise numerous times after the bill was signed into law. Even today on the White House website it still says, “If you like your plan you can keep it and you don’t have to change a thing due to the health care law.” 

So why doesn’t the president put that promise into law?

Obamacare cancels millions of individual policies, and for millions of other Americans, employers are dropping insurance programs as they discover the added costs of Obamacare.

It seems the new promise from the Obama administration is, “If you want health care, go find it” —on a website that the administration says won’t be working properly until the end of November. That is an unwelcome Christmas present to have to shop for and buy a new insurance policy by Dec. 15 so that you’re covered next year when Obamacare outlaws your policy.

In Tennessee, 66,000 people who have insurance through Blue Cross Blue Shield as well as 16,000 people who have insurance through something called CoverTN, a low-cost, narrow coverage state program, are receiving cancellation letters due to Obamacare. CoverTN apparently is an example of what the president has called "bad apples," an insurance plan that Washington has decided isn't good enough for you. 

I recently heard from one of those Tennesseans whose policy will be cancelled on Jan. 1. Her name is Emilie, and she is 39 years of age. She has lupus and lives in Middle Tennessee, and said her premiums will increase a staggering 410 percent, while her out-of-pocket expenses will increase by more than $6,000 per year.

Our health care system makes up nearly 20 percent of our economy, touching the lives of every American. Today Obamacare is pushing that 20 percent of our economy in the wrong direction. 

We need to turn it around and head it in the right direction.

The right direction is more choices and more competition, both of which lower costs so more Americans can afford to buy insurance. From the beginning of the health care debate in 2009 through bill passage in 2010, I counted the number of times Republicans spoke on the floor about our step-by-step plan to take the health care delivery system in a different direction – 173 times just during the health care debate.

Steps like making Medicare solvent or expanding Health Savings Accounts would transform the health care delivery system by moving it away from expanding a health care system that we know already costs too much.

In the meantime, I am cosponsoring legislation offered by Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) called the “If You Like Your Health Plan You Can Keep It Act,” which would allow Americans to remain on health care plans that have been in effect through the end of this year.

The president has made this promise repeatedly. Even former president Bill Clinton has since said the government should “honor” that promise. President Obama should put those words into law today.