The 2013 Politifact Lie of the Year was “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” The only thing Politifact got wrong was just how big of a lie that really was.
The American healthcare system is, by all accounts, abysmal in comparison to the rest of the world. There are a lot of reasons why it’s so bad, but there’s surprisingly little understanding of how bad it actually is. One symptom of the total organ failure that is American healthcare is elaborated in a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC study finds that one in four Americans between 18 and 64 in a given twelve-month period face a period of uninsurance. This analysis showed that 50 million Americans faced uninsurance in the year 2014 — immediately following the declaration that “If you like your … plan” was the Lie of the Year.
And though that declaration and the statement underlying it were in regards to the Affordable Care Act (colloquially called Obamacare), the reality of uninsurance is a much bigger picture than that.
Because this study focused on lapses as periods of time instead of being uninsured either at a single point in time or as an entire-year issue, it showed in better detail the losses of insurance caused by significant life events like the loss of a job, the loss of a spouse, or the loss of a parent.
Because these dramatic life events come paired with a loss of coverage, the result is that ultimately no American is able to keep their plan if they like it. That choice is made for them by employers or fate far more than it is by Obamacare.
It is arguable that because America’s health system is made up of such a patchwork of policies from different sources, the only way to actually effectively guarantee that an American who likes their plan can keep that plan is by means of a national health care program like Medicare for All, argues Jacobin‘s Matt Bruenig.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.