Debra J. Saunders

Chaos. "The whole mess has thrown the country, millions of people, the insurance market, into chaos," wrote Paul Palumbo, one of the million Californians who were notified that because of the Affordable Care Act, their Blue Shield plans would end Dec. 31.

When the self-employed research analyst received the notice, he stopped paying his premiums because "they were dropping" him. The cheapest alternative he could find costs 61 percent more than his old premium and has a higher deductible. For now, he's waiting for the market to settle and rolling the dice. After President Barack Obama announced Thursday that he would allow insurers to sell 2013 plans for another year, Palumbo observed that it changes nothing. This new fiat "will only further confuse people and negatively impact the market's ability to function efficiently."

Is what Obama proposes even legal? When Republicans tried to delay the scheme, the administration responded that Obamacare is "the law of the land," passed by Congress, signed by the president and upheld by the Supreme Court.

Covered California requires its providers to terminate old individual policies Dec. 31.

Insurers are not on board. They have tied their offerings into knots to meet the ACA's voluminous regulations and calculated rates that anticipated current policyholders joining new pools. Now the president says to health care purveyors: Never mind. Do me a favor and sell your old plans with added bells and whistles -- and for what you charged because you could exclude those with pre-existing conditions.

With this gambit, Obama essentially is trying to convince an estimated 5 million terminated policyholders across the country: If you lose your plan, blame the insurance companies.

The news conference followed a botched rollout capped by the release of anemic enrollment numbers. The administration had expected 500,000 people to sign up during October. Instead, 106,000 Americans enrolled. The numbers for California are better. Nearly 31,000 Californians signed up in October; another 24,000 enrolled in the first two weeks of November. According to Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee, older Californians are overrepresented and younger Californians are underrepresented in the applicant pool.

If too few healthy and young people participate, warned Devon Herrick, senior fellow of the National Center for Policy Analysis, the result will be an "adverse selection death spiral."

Debra J. Saunders

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