11/15/2013 08:19 pm ET Updated Nov 16, 2013

Woman Thrown Off Health Insurance Doesn't Buy Obama's 'Fix'


A California woman whose canceled health insurance policy made her a subject of media scrutiny isn't impressed by President Barack Obama's new policy allowing health insurers to renew what would've been eliminated under Obamacare.

"How do I feel about his -- quote -- fix? There is no fix. He didn't propose a fix. There's no way to fix it," Deborah Cavallaro, a self-employed real estate agent in Los Angeles, told The Huffington Post Friday. "It's really a political maneuver. It's so obvious."

Amid an uproar from hundreds of thousands of consumers receiving letters from their health insurers saying their existing plans are being canceled, and from congressional Democrats irate over the botched rollout of the health care reform law and meager enrollment so far, Obama announced Thursday that state regulators could permit insurers to renew those policies for current customers into next year.

The health insurance industry and state insurance officials reacted harshly to the announcement, noting that insurers already canceled those plans and may be unable to revive them. Trade groups for the industry and regulators warned that allowing healthy people who already buy insurance to avoid Obamacare's health insurance exchanges may boost future prices for those who use the marketplaces. Obama met with health insurance executives on Friday at the White House.

"He's not addressing the fact that insurance companies have already discontinued these plans," Cavallaro said. "It's really a political maneuver. It's so obvious." California regulators haven't decided whether to take up Obama's proposal. Anthem Blue Cross, Cavallaro's current insurer, wouldn't comment to HuffPost on its intentions.

Legislation seeking to preserve current health plans, including a measure passed by the House Friday and another sponsored by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), are equally pointless, Cavallaro said. "None of them can make the insurance companies give you back your policy at the rate that you were paying, so really none of them is worth anything," she said.

Cavallaro said she would rather keep what she has now than buy a new plan or go uninsured.

Cavallaro, an Obama voter who supported health care reform, said she feels burned. But she has no love for the health insurance industry, either. "The previous system stunk," she said.

"I'm no big fan of the insurance companies. I think they're all scum," she said. One reason she's skeptical of Obama's proposed fix is she's sure health insurers that renew these plans will use the situation to raise rates more than usual, she said.

Cavallaro's situation became widely known because of her interview with Maria Bartiromo on CNBC last month and a follow-up column by Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times. Her story also has been featured by NBC Nightly News, American Public Media's "Marketplace," KNBC-TV in Los Angeles, KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, and in another Los Angeles Times article.

On CNBC, Cavallaro said that her current $293-a-month plan won't be sold next year and that her insurance company told her the closest thing available on Covered California, the state health insurance exchange, would cost nearly $500.

Turns out Cavallaro's story wasn't so simple. Hiltzik, the LA Times columnist, followed up with her and learned that she hadn't shopped for alternatives on Covered California. Cavallaro told HuffPost she still hasn't, because she is concerned about the security of her personal information on the website.

"I don't want to go on Covered California. I don't want Obama's plan. I want my doctors and my hospital, and I don't want to be providing all of my financial information on to that absurd exchange," Cavallaro said.

According to Hitzlik's interview, Cavallaro's current coverage carries a $5,000 deductible and a maximum out-of-pocket costs of $8,500. It covers only two doctor visits a year.

On the California insurance exchange, based on Hiltzik's interview, Cavallaro could get $200 in tax credits and spend $333 a month for health insurance that comes with a $2,000 deductible, a $6,350 out-of-pocket maximum, and slightly higher co-payments for unlimited doctor visits. Cheaper options are available for skimpier plans on Covered California, Hiltzik reported. Anthem's letter didn't mention there would be other products available on the exchange, according to Hiltzik.

That doesn't address Cavallaro's concerns that her current medical providers won't be in the new health plans' networks -- although she told HuffPost she hasn't checked -- nor the fact that her income changes year to year, meaning she may not qualify for tax credits in future years and could face higher prices, she told Hiltzik and HuffPost.

"I don't have the money and even if I had a discretionary couple of hundred dollars extra a month, I'm not sure that I would spend it on health insurance," she said. "You can't push people to the point of destitution."



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