Open enrollment has begun for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and CNN is quick to report that despite premiums continuing to skyrocket, federal subsidies “will protect most enrollees.” But Christopher Briggs, a father in Virginia, just wants to know who’s going to protect his family from Obamacare itself.
“Joe Biden ran an ad when he was president, saying he couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have a child with cancer and no health coverage,” says Briggs. “I don’t have to imagine.”
His family’s struggles perfectly encapsulate the broken promises of the ACA.
When the Briggs’ youngest daughter was 2, she was diagnosed with leukemia. The family’s health insurance premiums rose to a level they simply couldn’t afford. Consequently, they turned to the Obamacare marketplace to find a less expensive policy. That was 2017; in Virginia, their only option was Cigna—which wouldn’t cover their daughter’s cancer treatment at Inova Fairfax, the only hospital in the region with a pediatric oncology ward. A policy they purchased in 2020 initially said it would cover her clinic—but it reversed course in the middle of the pandemic and dropped that facility.
“Under Obamacare, our daughter was effectively without coverage for cancer,” Briggs says.
Since then, it’s been a constant struggle for the family. In 2020, they were able to purchase a slightly better policy, and for now, their youngest daughter’s cancer is in remission.
“But doctors tell us it can come back—and that has us worried,” Briggs confided in me. “Will our insurance cover the treatment she might need?”
Obamacare was supposed to end these kinds of life-altering problems, but its promises have proved hollow.
Remember this one? “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period.” Even Politifact named this one “Lie of the Year” for 2013.
The Briggs family had a perfectly good health plan prior to passage of the ACA. But Obamacare limited their options to more and more expensive plans that offered fewer and fewer benefits. In fact, up to 9.3 million people lost their coverage during the first open enrollment period. President Barack Obama eventually apologized to these families for misleading them.
How about this one? “You can keep your doctor.” As many as 214,000 doctors opted out of participating in Obamacare exchange plans. CNN declared President Obama’s claim that “You can keep your own doctor” false. And the Obamacare website revised and then dropped the section entitled, “Can I keep my own doctor?”
For the Briggs family, this was a bitter disappointment—does it count as “coverage” if a plan doesn’t cover the pediatric leukemia physicians that their daughter needed, and could need again?
Even one of the legislation’s most popular promises—that parents could cover their offspring through the age of 26—proved false. An older daughter, age 24, is heading off to graduate school. The Briggs would love to include her on their insurance, and under the ACA she should qualify—except for a provision that makes it all but impossible for those on the Obamacare exchange to add adult children.
For Christopher Briggs, the Affordable Care Act has been “an American Dream-killer.” His purchasing options are severely restricted, and the one-size-fits-all nature of the exchange policies just won’t work for his family.
What makes it worse is that the government knows how flawed Obamacare is; yet instead of fixing it they are resorting to limiting more affordable private plans in a naïve attempt to get more healthy Americans to buy into Obamacare plans. My group, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, has filed a comment opposing the limits.
When Briggs had trouble enrolling his older daughter in his plan, a federal employee advised him to simply lie on the form. He rightly refused to do that.
But he hasn’t given up on fighting for medical freedom for himself and his family. He now works with the Independent Institute to tell his story and to demonstrate the failings of the ACA.
In its coverage of the issue, CNN seems to be unaware of the fundamental truth the Briggs family has discovered: Coverage doesn’t equal care, and continuing to subsidize a broken government insurance market changes nothing.