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Mitt Gets It Backwards on Firing Health Insurers

Posted by John McDonough  January 10, 2012 03:30 PM

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Ignore, for a moment, Mitt Romney's comment about how much he enjoys firing people, and examine his clarification, because he was speaking about health care policy and the Affordable Care Act:

"I don't want to live in a world where we have Obamacare telling us which insurance we have to have, which doctor we can have, which hospital we go to," Romney said. "I believe in the setting as I described this morning where people are able to choose their own doctor, choose their own insurance company. If they don't like their insurance company or their provider, they can get rid of it."

And let's recall Mitt's repeated assertion that one of his first acts as president will be to repeal the ACA/ObamaCare.

So what's messed up about his comments?  Lots.

Let's start with the obvious. The ACA, if fully implemented in 2014, will give every American, for the first time ever, the opportunity to fire his or her health insurance company. Right now, it  is the insurers that have the right to fire YOU-- except if you live in Massachusetts or in the handful of other states which have already implemented guaranteed issue and the elimination of pre-existing condition exclusions.

As of fall 2010, the ACA has already eliminated ways that insurance companies can fire you today. Two of numerous examples. First, by eliminating the right of insurers to impose lifetime or annual benefit limits, insurance companies have lost the right to "fire" enrollees who cost them too much money. Second, by prohibiting the practice of "rescissions" (cancelling insurance coverage after an enrollee files a claim by finding a small inaccuracy in an individual's coverage application), insurers have lost the ability to "fire" enrollees for the offense of filing a claim.  Both of these are operative today, and Mitt proposes repealing both of these reforms.

Mitt Romney's health agenda promises to reinstate the right of insurance companies to "fire" their enrollees for exceeding coverage limits or through rescissions, and would prevent Americans from getting the right to fire their insurer.

Massachusetts health reform is the model for the nation's health insurance future under the ACA. In Massachusetts, all consumers, regardless of age or health status, have the absolute right to fire their health insurer and to pick another plan. Everybody.  Only state in the nation. And thanks in big part to Mitt Romney. And now he seeks to take that right away from the rest of the nation. Thanks, but no thanks, Mitt.

Also, there is nothing in the ACA that tells "us which insurance we have to have, which doctor we can have, which hospital we go to." No where, no way, no how. If any one from Team Romney wants to document where and how my conclusion is wrong, I will post those comments up front on this blog.

The people telling Americans today "which doctor we can have, which hospital we go to" do not work federal or state government, they work for health insurance companies.  Our opportunity to set this straight is the ACA.
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

John E. McDonough is a professor of practice at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is the author of the book “Inside National Health Reform”, published in 2011 by More »


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