I think the best way to understand the politics and spin surrounding people in the individual market currently seeing their old policies being cancelled is to realize these people fall into roughly four basic categories.
1) Had junk insurance, but didn’t know it – Some people actually had basically worthless insurance but didn’t know it because they hadn’t gotten sick yet. Their premiums were low mainly because their insurance was useless. They are upset to see an increase in their premiums but finally ending these basically scam policies is not a bad thing.
2) Healthy, really good insurance, and are now losing it – These are people who actually had good insurance and are losing it because it is now unaffordable for them. If you are a healthy 30 year old male you could actually get really good coverage with low premiums. Now that these people are put in a risk pool with unhealthy people their premiums are going up significantly. After all the point of excluding people with pre-existing conditions was that it allowed insures to keep premiums low for healthy people.
3) Had “limited” insurance that met their specific needs and are now paying more – Some people didn’t have what was technically “good” insurance plans but the plans met their personal needs. The law requires maternity care and substance abuse treatment to be covered, but a 40 year old male with no history of addiction in his family probably doesn’t need these new benefits. These extra benefits make the insurance technically better but add cost. These are people who are now forced to get “better” insurance that will not really help them but cost them noticeably more
4) Are/will be happy about their cancellation – They are also a large number people who are or will eventually be happy about their cancellation. A big part of this group are people who will get exchange subsidies making insurance for them cheaper. There are also people who were paying more because of a pre-existing conditions who will now pay less because of community ratings.
One big problem for Democrats is that the broken Healthcare.gov website makes it hard for people to find out they are in category four. There are at least have a few people who think they are in category 2 and 3 but will be in category 4.
The other massive political problem for Democrats is that there are people in category 2 and 3 but Obama promised these categories wouldn’t exist. The “you can keep your insurance” promise was a deliberate lie for these groups. Democrats are trying to spin the situation by pretending people in category 2 and 3 are really in category 1, but it is not working.
On the other hand, Republicans are basically pretending category 1 and category 4 don’t exist at all and only highlight categories 2 and 3. That is easy to do when the website doesn’t work.
Image courtesy of Daniel Kulinski, used under Creative Commons license