Fact-checking Cruz’s claims that Obamacare left him uninsured

About Joanne Kenen

Contributing editor to Politico Magazine and former health care editor-at-large, Politico, Commonwealth Fund journalist in residence and assistant lecturer at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz, as you may have heard, said on the campaign trail in late January that he didn’t have health insurance. And that his wife was pretty ticked off about it.

A few days later, his office said he and his family were, in fact, insured. As fellow Texan president hopeful Rick Perry once said – OOPS.

But it’s not really funny.

We can’t be sure if Cruz truly misunderstood. His particular 2015 plan was cancelled – but his insurance carrier auto-enrolled him in a new one. Did he just want to pile one more unhappy insurance story at the feet of “Obamacare?” Let’s review what happened:

Cruz’s wife, Heidi, worked for Goldman Sachs until she took a leave of absence to campaign for him. So, all that time he was railing about the “special” deal putting lawmakers in the Affordable Care Act – it had nothing to do with him. He had gold-plated employer-sponsored health care through his wife’s high-paid job.

Then she took a leave of absence. Several people asked me why the family couldn’t COBRA – but she didn’t lose her job or leave it. She went on a voluntary leave of absence of indeterminate length while her husband runs for president. Goldman doesn’t have to offer her COBRA for a voluntary, temporary leave. (The company, to my knowledge, hasn’t made public the details of its COBRA policy but companies have to offer that coverage option in some circumstances such as job loss, but they have discretion in others.) And in response to the person – not an AHCJ member – who asked me if the family was covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act – the short answer is NO, that’s for births, illnesses, etc., not the GOP primary trail.

The Cruz family thought about getting ACA coverage and, as a senator, he’d get a subsidy to lower the cost. But even thinking about taking “Obamacare” as he ran for president on a purist conservative platform provoked cries of hypocrisy. Remember, Cruz was the primary force behind the 2013 government shutdown aimed at halting the ACA. He ended up forgoing the subsidy and buying a family plan on the individual market in Texas.

That plan was cancelled at the end of 2015, as Blue Cross Blue Shield moved away from PPOs and into more restrictive HMOs in the individual market in that state. The Cruz family had several months notice – and they were rolled into another plan – apparently one Ted Cruz didn’t like much. He was looking into alternatives – and claimed, erroneously, that he wasn’t covered in the meantime. That just wasn’t true.

Here are a few other things he said about why he was “uninsured.”

He said BCBS was no longer selling in the individual market in Texas.
False. It is still offering individual market plans, though they are more restrictive plans.

He said his premium went up 50 percent and he claimed “that’s happening all over the country. That’s happening in New Hampshire.”
We can’t ascertain precisely what happened to his premium and whether his new plan had comparable benefits, deductibles, etc. But premiums did not go up 50 percent “all over the country.” Nowhere near that much. Including in Texas. And not in New Hampshire, where according to Kaiser Family Foundation data, premiums rose around 5.7 percent for the lowest silver plan before tax credits were factored in – and the cost actually dropped in New Hampshire once the tax credits were counted. (Here’s the state-by-state list.)

He said he is uninsured because of Obamacare.
To the contrary, Cruz has the option of enrolling in the ACA and getting it partly paid for by the government as a federal employee. But then, of course, if he won the presidency and repealed the Affordable Care Act, he and millions of other Americans would then be uninsured.

1 thought on “Fact-checking Cruz’s claims that Obamacare left him uninsured

  1. Terry Griffin

    Thank you very much for the facts. I was quite surprised when Mr. Cruz announced, with a tinge of pride, that he, himself, was uninsured. I don’t think he wants to understand how the health insurance market works.

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