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Dan Liljenquist: Obamacare is more trick than treat

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 30 2013 2:25 p.m. MDT

This Oct. 24, 2013 file photo shows President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Congressional Republicans are waging war against a hapless Web Site and hoping it leads to the destruction of Obamacare, the health care program they loathe yet can’t stop talking about it.

Charles Dharapak, ASSOCIATED PRESS

This afternoon, the fading fall sun will retreat into a deep darkness, the perfect cover for foraging ghouls, ghosts and goblins, with their larger humans in tow, to extort sweets, goodies and the occasional toothbrush from their neighbors with a not-so-subtle, confidently delivered threat of “trick or treat." It’s Halloween! All Hallows’ Eve! The first day of Hallowmas, the liturgical celebration where the dead are remembered and the certainty of death is embraced.

This evening, as families light up jack-o’-lanterns, don costumes, and gather with friends and loved ones to bob for apples, play pranks and tell scary stories, I suspect that many will be talking about health care. This week millions of Americans learned that their health insurance policies, deemed as insufficient by federal bureaucrats, had been cancelled thanks to Obamacare. For those who believed President Obama when he said, “if you like … your health care plan, you can keep it," this came as a terrifying shock. These people, once happy with their health insurance coverage, will now be forced to enter the maze-like, federal health care exchange, a veritable house of horrors with a Hotel California like vibe, to purchase much more expensive health care insurance than they really need. This week marked the death of the individualized health insurance policy.

For those who have attentively watched the rollout of Obamacare, none of these developments is a surprise. Originally, while the Obamacare legislation requires all insurance plans to cover 10 essential benefits, the Obama administration assured Americans that existing health care plans would be “grandfathered” in, meeting the requirements of the individual insurance mandate. But over the last three years, the Obama administration issued regulations restricting “grandfathered” plans to those plans that were not altered in any way since the passage of the Obamacare legislation. Since most insurance plans are altered a little bit each year, the Obama administration authored and approved regulations designed to negate President Obama’s specific commitments to the American people. Now the Obama administration is openly admitting that they always intended this exact result.

In many ways, watching this specific scenario play out is like watching a horror movie where the awkward, creepy looking man with the monotone voice and a glint of crazy in his eyes slowly shuffles towards the pretty young lady across the room, repeatedly assuring her “I am not going to hurt you” while holding a bloody butcher knife behind his back. We all know how it ends, except, somehow, the unbelievably naïve teenager on the screen.

But it is one thing to witness such deception on the silver screen. It is quite another to witness a similar, albeit less violent, deception from our president and his administration. The next time President Obama speaks, assuring us of one thing or another, I’ve wondered how he expects us to believe him.

For the sake of the millions of Americans whose health insurance policies were cancelled this week, the Obama administration should alter its own regulations, reverse course and “grandfather” those plans as they originally committed to do. Insurance companies will continue to administer these plans until the end of the year, and could easily extend them into 2014. There is still time to remedy this situation, though the window is closing fast.

I expect that the Obama administration, true to its modus operandi, will choose to double down on its existing plans, even though more Americans have lost health care coverage than have gained it over the first four weeks of the Obamacare era. Unfortunately for the American people, the entire Obamacare experience has been much more trick than treat.

Dan Liljenquist is a former state senator and U.S. Senate candidate.

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