There have been a few hiccups with the new health care law. Maybe you've heard.
The national website for health care shopping has become the fail whale of all fail whales. People are getting letters saying their policies won't be renewed because the coverage they have isn't good enough under the new rules.
And it seems like everybody is mad.
Some of this anger is politically motivated. The health care rollout has been a disaster and there is much political hay to be made. Some of this anger comes from a sincere sense of betrayal. President Barack Obama promised many times that people who liked their health plans would be able to keep them. It was a forceful sales pitch to the self-employed, those who buy insurance on the individual market. It was also both a ridiculous and an untrue statement, as pretty much anyone who has health insurance knows.
Nonetheless, the president was back at it Thursday, essentially saying: OK, this time I mean it. If you like your plan, even if it was just canceled, you can keep it. Or at least we'll let your insurance company renew it, if it wants to.
Thank goodness my plan includes mental health coverage because this is driving me nuts. Am I the only one baffled by the health care political circus? News reports describe Obama's latest waiver as "bowing to political pressure," which I first took to mean pressure from his opponents, the Republicans. But wait. That would mean Obama changed course to make more popular a law that Republicans want to kill.
It turns out the political pressure was coming from allies, the Democrats, which means Obama changed course and the law to appease those who wrote and supported the law in the first place.
Whoever it was that Obama was seeking to placate, in the end he's most likely just digging himself in deeper. Why would anyone ever think, or think to say, that consumers could keep their health plans if they liked them?
When was that ever true?
History shows that health plans -- the premiums, deductible, co-pays, coverage -- constantly change, generally not for the better. Being able to keep the plan you have has been the exception to the rule, even before the new law.
I'm lucky to have insurance through my employer, but in recent years it's been rare that I've been able to keep the same plan from year to year. You?
The premium that my employer and I pay has gone up nearly every year recently, and in several instances my coverage has changed in ways I wish it hadn't. Next year, my co-payments for specialist visits will double and my potential out-of-pocket payments will increase by 50 percent. Two years ago, my employer dropped all the plans from a provider it had used for years. Not only did I lose the plan I liked; I couldn't keep the doctor I'd been seeing for 20 years.
All of which is to say that insurance isn't about what customers/patients/premium payers want. It never was. It's about insurance companies protecting their profits and constantly striving for more. As long as insurance companies are a part of the equation, and until we have a government-run single-payer system, that's the way it's going to be.
Still, as I've written before, I do think the new law is better than the system (which was no system at all) that it replaces. No, I don't mean to dismiss the worries of those who have received cancellation letters from their insurers. It's a gut-wrenching feeling to be at the mercy of an insurance company, or even an employer providing insurance, when it comes to health care. It is one of the few times that the bickering in Washington actually is a matter of life and death.
The posturing and politicking over individual policies resonates all the more in Silicon Valley, where an army of more than 180,000 free agents -- the inventors, consultants and temp workers -- work for themselves and provide the vital support for the valley's brawny economic engine.
They've made a practice of shopping and scheming, accepting higher deductibles for stable premiums, and worrying; worrying about how high the next increase will be.
For them, the horror stories that are being told and retold in Washington during the latest debate are stories they know by heart. That the president didn't is a disgrace.