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A canceled health plan is a good thing

By Sally Kohn, Special to CNN
October 29, 2013 -- Updated 1936 GMT (0336 HKT)
Marilyn Tavenner testified before Congress on Tuesday about the health care exchange website.
Marilyn Tavenner testified before Congress on Tuesday about the health care exchange website.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sally Kohn: Conservatives feign shock that White House knew some plans would be canceled
  • Kohn: It's because they don't meet Obamacare's higher bar of quality benefits
  • If you lose your plan, she says, you'll have access to better and often cheaper plans
  • Kohn: Most get insurance from jobs; millions who don't will get affordable plans

Editor's note: Sally Kohn is a progressive activist, columnist and television commentator. Follow her on Twitter at @sallykohn.

(CNN) -- Conservatives are expressing shock and outrage that the Obama administration knew that many people in the individual insurance market would not be able to keep their plans once the Affordable Care Act took effect. Such shock is not surprising; overblown outrage is the stock and trade of conservative politics these days.

But here's what conservatives won't tell you, lest it undermine their theatrics: Many insurance plans are shutting down because they don't meet the higher bar of quality benefits required under Obamacare, and of those people who lose access to their plans, many will pay less and all will have better and more comprehensive options.

Also, with a few exceptions, no one is really noting that this point isn't quite news. In 2010, the fact that certain insurance plans would not be grandfathered into Obamacare because of their inadequate coverage was widely covered by the press. It was a given, after all that, if standards for health insurance were going to be raised in America -- a good thing -- then some plans that don't meet the bar would no longer be available. One could blame this on the Affordable Care Act, or alternatively, one could blame this on insurance companies for providing such substandard care in the first place.

Sally Kohn
Sally Kohn

Here's what this boils down to:

Will some people lose their current insurance? Yes.

Will these same folks lose health insurance coverage? No.

They will all have access to better plans and in many cases pay less because of expanded options and tax credits.

This whole kerfuffle ignores that insurance plans were changing all the time and premiums were skyrocketing pre-Obamacare. Suddenly, a whole range of bad behavior on the part of insurance companies is blamed on the Affordable Care Act. It's just like employers trying to shaft their workers by cutting hours and benefits and blaming it on the Affordable Care Act, even though employer mandate provisions don't take effect for another year.

Trying to blame Obamacare for every problem in the private insurance market is paradoxical: The whole reason for passing the Affordable Care Act was to fix what's broken with private insurance

If we as a nation object to the inherent and deeper flaws within the private health insurance system in America, then we should embrace a single-payer system. But instead, because conservatives were so wed to propping up the private insurance market, we got Obamacare. It's disingenuous to turn around and point fingers at Obamacare for faults that have always been -- and will always be -- pervasive in private health insurance.

The Affordable Care Act prevents some of the worst abuses of the private insurance market and makes coverage overall more inclusive and affordable. It doesn't fundamentally alter the private market equation -- and incentives to cut corners and care.

I know Republicans love their manufactured outrage, as much as they loved it back in September 2010, when Republican Sen. Mike Enzi cited the same 40% to 67% numbers for those expected to lose plans that NBC now reports as "new news." But the fact remains that about 80% of Americans get their health insurance either from their employers or from a program like Medicare, and that won't change at all under the Affordable Care Act.

Millions more are uninsured and will be thrilled to have access to affordable insurance at subsidized rates. This saves us all money, because the cost of their emergency room care isn't offloaded onto the rest of us in rising premiums. What we're focused on now is the small sliver of Americans who, like myself, get insurance through the individual market. Some of us will see our current plans disappear, but all of us will see our plans upgraded -- with many becoming more affordable.

When it comes to President Obama and his policies, conservatives have a steady supply of manufactured shock. But improving the quality and affordability of health insurance for all Americans and providing real facts along the way, that's an important accomplishment.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sally Kohn.

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