Broadly speaking, the Affordable Care Act seeks to make two sets of changes to what's called the "non-group" market. It establishes a minimum set of benefits, which means everything from covering "essential" services to eliminating annual or lifetime limits on payments. At the same time, the law prohibits insurers from discriminating among customers: They can't charge higher prices, withhold benefits, or deny coverage altogether to people who represent medical risks. They have to take everybody, varying price only for age (within a three-to-one ratio) and for tobacco use. If you buy your own insurance now, it probably doesn't live up to these standards. For starters, it probably isn't as comprehensive as you think. It may not cover prescription drugs, for example, or it might leave out rehabilitative services and mental health. It might expose you to out-of-pocket expenses greater than $6,350 (if you have a single person's policy) or a $12,700 (if you have a family policy). Until three years ago, when Obamacare's first regulations went into effect, it was even possible the insurer could yank it retroactively -- a process known as "rescission" -- if you got sick and the carrier scrubbed your medical records for some previous sign of illness, maybe even one you didn't know you had.
The main rationale for Obamacare is that the individual-health-care market is dysfunctional. Most people who can't get group insurance -- either through their job or through a government-financed plan, like Medicare -- can't get any insurance at all. Insurers have to make sure they don't attract sick customers, so they either attach hidden conditions to their insurance to protect against covering expensive care, or else limit their policies to very healthy people. That's why people with individual insurance are much less satisfied than people with group-based insurance. [...] If you want to make sure every healthy person paying low rates in the individual market right now can keep their plan, then you have two choices. One is to abolish Obamacare altogether, which means making it impossible for people with preexisting conditions to get affordable insurance. Clinton doesn't want to do that -- he continues to endorse the law. The second is to come up with some other source of funding to compensate insurance companies for their losses. Clinton doesn't say where that money would come from.