August 16th, 2009
11:08 AM ET
5 years ago

Aide: Obama 'can't prevent employers from dropping coverage'

HHS Secretary Sebelius discussed health care reform Sunday on State of the Union.
HHS Secretary Sebelius discussed health care reform Sunday on State of the Union.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – A top Obama aide said Sunday that even if health care reform legislation is passed, the president cannot prevent employers from dropping health care coverage.

Asked about Mr. Obama’s comments Tuesday at New Hampshire that “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the president could not ensure that employees would not lose coverage if Democrats succeed in passing health care reform legislation.

“Clearly, he can’t prevent employers from dropping coverage,” Sebelius told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, “and it happens all the time although health reform will stabilize that marketplace.”

“I think, at the end of the day, what [Obama’s] saying is that you’re going to have a stronger employer-based system – encourage more employers to stay where they are and encourage more doctors to actually participate in the system. Clearly, he can’t mandate that a doctor not retire or that an employer not switch a plan that might have a different network of doctors."

Sebelius also told King about a deal the administration has struck with representatives of the pharmaceutical industry that will help contain costs for prescription drugs especially for senior citizens covered by Medicare who need prescription drugs.

Related: Health care in America

soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. 60's survivor

    Obama the voice of reason.

    August 16, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  2. Welcome to Rome

    Greed is what brought down Rome and the USA will also fall,as it is written,so shall it be.The greatest empire in the world will be the shortest lived and the four horsemen ride on.

    August 16, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  3. D. Tree

    That's why a Public Option is so important – if you get dropped by your employer, or change jobs, you have the option to purchase low-cost basic insurance.

    August 16, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  4. Anonymous

    No because that's what he wants. D. Tree there is already a public option if you lose your job, it's called the S-hip for adults and C-hip for children available at the state level. Depending on your income you can get it either at a reduced rate or free of charge.

    August 16, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  5. Jeanne

    If this is the way employers will go, then a Public Option must be considered. How else would someone be able to purchase insurance????

    August 16, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  6. catmom

    No, he can't. He can't promise that employers who only see the bottom line and whose only goal is to make sure they see as big a profit as ever would dump their responsibility on the government. That would be the same government that so many people seem to enjoy vilifying lately. The point of all of this is to see that people have options espicially when their employer decides to take their profits and jobs overseas to countries that DO provide health care to their employees and they can pay those people a much lower wage than they would pay here.

    August 16, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  7. Ohio D

    Brilliant CNN never says exactly WHY they believe employers would drop coverage for this article, only that it might happen if this bill is passed... And based on the comments written, apparently some of you don't understand all the potential issues here. There will be an issue of some employers dropping their current coverages BECAUSE OF the public health option. Having that public option would open doors for the employer to end current coverages that most people like. They don't HAVE to provide coverage if their employees can get it from the government. Now my wife works for the federal government and we use her insurance that is with a private insurer. Our BIGGEST QUESTION is, "Will the federal government drop all private plans and force all government employees to be part of the public option (except for Congress of course, they seem to be exempt from everything they pass)???" That scares the hell out of us. We are very happy with our current plan.

    August 16, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  8. Economist

    She's not an "aide"; she's a cabinet secretary. Quit being so sloppy.

    August 16, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  9. joe

    The document clearly states that the Government will "tax" (really penalize) companies for not providing care through the Government system – this will ensure that most corporations drop current coverage plans. He has already targeted corporate America for tax increases in the future – he will drain them dry and they will have no option but to provide only the Government system and hence we will see a rationing of care by the Government.

    The document clearly states that the government will decide end of life care, will assist doctors in making decisions and will • Page 30, line 23 — There will be a government committee that decides what treatments you get. This bill is all about control and this President has shown he wants to control EVERYTHING; Auto's Wall Street, Pay, everything. The language of this bill is certainly ambiguous and given it is open to interpretation, once we let the government in, they will do what they want because the language of the bill will allow them to define it how they want – regardless of what Mr. Obama is trying to sell us in his road trips! This bill should NOT pass if so much is left up to interpretation.

    August 16, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  10. tim in stl

    That is only part of the story. Either Obama has not read the bill or does not understand that if your employer changes any aspect of their coverage, and this is normally at least as a yearly occurrence, the plan must meet the regulations brought with this bill. In other words your employer may feel it is more advantageous to drop coverage and pay the fee then try to meet the law. NO MATTER what after 5 years the plan must meet the terms of the bill. Also if he can really save the money in Medicare, go ahead and do it and reduce the deficit.

    August 16, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  11. WIll 18E

    But this is good. So the health care vendors who sell health care policies to employers along with the health care maintenance organization, which are all for profit orgnization, will have to become move competitive. Prices will have to drop, modernization, increased quality just to maintain market share. And in a capitalist system they will.

    Th simple fact is if you have a preexisting condition you are barred from buying an "individual" health care policy. Yet if you take any job with health care benefits, you will not be denied the exact same policy. And or worse case scenario their may be a short buy in period for the same policy if it is a very serious illness.

    The GOP has been arguing for decades, and partially so in the Bush jr. years, that employers should not have to provide both healthcare and retirement to their employees for sake of competitiveness.

    This is all fine and well but the GOP will not support laws that gives individuals the same access to a health care maintenance organization that employers have. They will not pass on the full tax deductibility of health care cost to individuals that buy individual plans. Nor will they pass law establishing self directed 401K, But yet they defend business interest, in trying to strip these benefits.

    If the insurance industry simply dropped the preclusion for preexisting injuries, this whole debate and need for reform would not exist.

    Lastly, this CNN article is misleading, doctors sign contracts with health care maintenance organization, not employees or individuals.
    Thus the issues that doctors will not participate is ridiculous. Doctors participate with multiple health care maintenance organizations at once. If Doctors drop there contracts, no patient, no patient no paycheck . This article does not mention the word patient once. Health care reform is about the "individuals" ability to reasonably access the system wheather or not it's done on there own or through an employer.

    August 16, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  12. DC2003

    Anonymous August 16th, 2009 11:26 am ET

    No because that's what he wants. D. Tree there is already a public option if you lose your job, it's called the S-hip for adults and C-hip for children available at the state level. Depending on your income you can get it either at a reduced rate or free of charge.

    Ummmmmmmmmmmmm!
    You might wanna check your sources again!
    SCHIP stands for "State Childrens Health Insurance Program", although it does cover some adults.

    The problem is "Does an individual qualify?" Two attempts to increase eligibility were vetod by ... guess who .... GWB!!

    There is "COBRA" but unless you have $$$ to spare or just have to have it .... its too expensive for most people!

    August 16, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  13. Dan

    Smoke and mirrors packed with lies!

    August 16, 2009 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  14. Keith in Austin

    Obama will CAUSE employers to drop medical insurance for their employees due to his imposed tax to small business and corporations to those offering private healthcare plans for their employees. The end result will be the cancelization of their current plans leaving millions with only the Government option. Obama's corporate tax will also lead to more lost jobs and higher cost for goods. Keep Government's greedy control of healthcare and it's invasion on our personal freedom away! Not to mention the additional cost and taxes we will all be burdoned with. Those supporting Obamacare are primarily the same people that desire more Government control or feel entitlement for more government handouts on the backs of American taxpayers especially our senior citizens

    August 16, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  15. Peter E

    Newsflash: employers have been dropping health coverage for the past two decades already due to greedy insurance companies. The very reason why government options had to be brought up in the first place IS because employers can no longer afford health coverage and needed a new, cheaper option! Now that insurance companies bribed enough politicians and media to kill that public option we will just see ever increasing number of people not covered. Congratul;ations people for shooting yourself in the foot!

    August 16, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  16. Sylvia

    There is nothing now to keep employers from changing health insurance providers. I've had a couple of jobs where the powers that were decided to change health insurance plans because the cost of what they had was too high. And when they changed, surely anybody knows the coverage was not better. Also how many employers keep adding to what the employee has to pay out of pocket for insurance? Maybe some competition would change all that.

    August 16, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  17. catmom

    Anonymous: No because that's what he wants. D. Tree there is already a public option if you lose your job, it's called the S-hip for adults and C-hip for children available at the state level. Depending on your income you can get it either at a reduced rate or free of charge.

    There is no program called s-hip or c-hip. There is the SHCIP program for children which Republicans don't want to fund either. Or the state program you might be referring to is Medicaid and believe me that is not an easy program to qualify for. Some states have other programs that a person might qualify for but again often the working class person might have a hard time qualifying for them. In Texas they have the Gold Card. Unfortunately a lot of people aren't eligible because they make too much money. The sad thing is , is that they also don't make enough money to pay for medical test, prescriptions, and routine health care and pay their living expenses as well. Have you noticed what a routine doctor appointment cost?

    Some of you need to understand that there are a lot of employers hiring "part-time" employees at a pretty good wage but offer no benefits. Others are hiring people as temporary employees again not paying benefits. No benefits means no insurance, no sick days, no vacations. If you have to take time off for an illness, you don't get paid. While these people work everyday and make a decent wage they can't afford individual health insurance or insurance for their family members. BECAUSE they are working and making decent money, they don't qualify for assistance from many of the existing programs. There in lies the problem for a lot of people.

    August 16, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  18. Lori

    WHY does CNN tend to use headlines that portrays something negative? I think because they know that the general public doesn't read the whole article, just the headline. Then they go out to the bar and say, "yeah, well Obama can't guarantee your employer won't drop your coverage" and then the ignorance continues. CNN, grow up.

    August 16, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  19. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    Most patients are unable to evaluate the technical competence of their physician because they lack the specific education and experience to pass such a judgment. Would you rather have a good doctor you didn't choose or none at all?

    August 16, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  20. jules sand-perkins

    Why is anyone surprised or offended that an employer's bottom line is, correctly, money?
    No employer or employee can survive if the company does not make a profit. The greater the profit, the better the survival of everyone in the company.
    "The bottom line" is not immoral: it is the highest morality.

    August 16, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  21. Gilberto Gil

    This whole "story' is sto stupid. My employer has changed insurance companies 3 times in the lat 10 years...so this is something that happens already. I didn't change my doctor, but my insurance plan changed.

    August 16, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  22. Joe

    Finally, the true came out of the Obama Administration. A top Obama aide said Sunday that even if health care reform legislation is passed, the president cannot prevent employers from dropping health care coverage. That is very correct. The true is that if you have a socialized, free, or government-subsidized cheaper healthcare plans there for everyone to choose, every employer in America will eventually drop their plans to reduce the costs for their business. Guess what, everyone will eventually end up with a government-run, socialized medicine with sky-high tax rates to support the system.

    August 16, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  23. MomofFour

    Medicaid/Medicare is nine times the cost that was projected last year. Can you imagine if this 90 billion dollars a year the Democrats are proposing is nine times the cost that they project? We would be in a serious situation. We are supposed to be afraid of insurance companies and yet trust the government? We are supposed to believe that Washington is going to adopt and entire system to cover the entire spectrum of healthcare and save money doing it? What planet do they think we are on?

    This was an attempt by the far-left to get their paws on a lot of money and it did not work. If Washington wants to reform the problems in our healthcare industry then they can do so at a logical pace, with bipartisan effort, step by step to not just fix the current system of medicare, medicaid, social security, the VA, etc. but to help those who need the help. The Democrats way overreached on this. They went for the holy grail and if they aren't careful they will lose all of it.

    August 16, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  24. Jimmy

    That is the whole point trying to be made by those who oppose this plan. Many would be forced into taking the public "option" when there employers decide to drop private insurance for a cheaper solution. The ranks of the public option will swell and the costs for this program will overrun projections. Just like every other government entitlement.

    August 16, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  25. MomofFour

    The Democrats actually believe that we are stupid enough to believe that Washington is going to run the entire healthcare industry better and for less money. I don't know who is more stupid...the people who believe that or the people saying it. They have the majority in congress and the senate and they have all the networks and CNN supporting the Obama administration (with only one opposing view on TV) and this bill is completely dead. That says something for the American people...censored and all.

    August 16, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
1 2