Frank Luntz, the architect of the right wing strategy to deprive Americans of improved health care, has made it easy for the True Believers to frighten the ignorant. The strategy enables them to pretend to have read and understood the various bills under consideration in the House and Senate.
It feeds them page numbers and snippets of text to support their utterly false assertions about what the legislation would or would not do. One by one, these lies that were created by and distributed by the right wing have been discredited.
One such lie, however, dies hard. The lie contends that Section 102 (a) of the House bill specifically denies consumer choice. A screed in my local "news"paper went on and on about the dire effects of this alleged denial of choice. Another ranter simply quoted captions from the bill and said, in effect, trust me, these things will put Big Brother in charge of your every breath.
Utter nonsense. Here is the pertinent text:
TITLE I—PROTECTIONS AND STANDARDS FOR QUALIFIED HEALTH BENEFITS PLANS
Subtitle A—General Standards
SEC. 101. REQUIREMENTS REFORMING HEALTH INSURANCE MARKETPLACE.
(a) PURPOSE.—The purpose of this title is to establish standards to ensure that new health insurance coverage and employment-based health plans that are offered
meet standards guaranteeing access to affordable coverage, essential benefits, and other consumer protections.
SEC. 102. PROTECTING THE CHOICE TO KEEP CURRENT COVERAGE.
(a) GRANDFATHERED HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE DEFINED.—Subject to the succeeding provisions of this section, for purposes of establishing acceptable coverage under this division, the term ‘‘grandfathered health insurance coverage’’ means individual health insurance coverage that is offered and in force and effect before the first day of Y1 if the following conditions are met:
10 (1) LIMITATION ON NEW ENROLLMENT.—
11 (A) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day of Y1.
LIMITATION ON CHANGES IN TERMS OR CONDITIONS.—Subject to paragraph (3) and except as required by law, the issuer does not change any of its terms or conditions, including benefits and cost-sharing, from those in effect as of the day before the first day of Y1.
8 (b) GRACE PERIOD FOR CURRENT EMPLOYMENT
(1) IN GENERAL.—Individual health insurance coverage that is not grand -fathered health insurance coverage under subsection (a) may only be offered on or after the first day of Y1 as an Exchange-participating health benefits plan.
Read it carefully. Here's what it says: An existing plan can be continued as long as it remains exactly the same when the new law takes effect. Employees who choose to may remain covered by it. The insurer may not continue to enroll new people in the plan after the reform law takes effect. If it wants to continue to enroll people it has to move the plan into the exchange where it will compete with all the other approved plans, including the public plan. This in no way limits consumer choices; it in fact expands them and prevents insurers from "dodging" the more stringent consumer protections of the exchange by continuing to enroll people under the old plan. It also prohibits stealthy changes in benefits, rates and provisions in a grandfathered plan.
Indeed, the legislation explicitly protects full and free choice for consumers in Sec. 202 (B):
EMPLOYEE CHOICE.—Any employee offered Exchange-participating health benefits plans by the employer of such employee under subparagraph (A) may choose coverage under any such plan. That choice includes, with respect to family coverage, coverage of the dependents of such employee.