Here's another anecdote for the White House to dismiss, just in time for the holidays. Via the Weekly Standard, meet Debra Fishericks:
This segment, which aired on a CBS News affiliate in Virginia, is unsparingly brutal for the White House. Fishericks is (a) fighting kidney cancer, (b) loves her soon-to-be-canceled employer-based coverage, (c) can't find an affordable policy on Obamacare's exchange that allows her to keep her doctors, and (d) tearfully frets that the new regime will be so punitive and expensive that she won't have enough money to visit her beloved grandchild. A genuine parade of horribles. Fishericks' experience shreds four core promises of Obamacare: She can't keep her plan, she can't keep her doctor, she can't afford the new options, and she falls beyond the administration's "five percent" deception. She's one of the millions who will lose their group coverage status over the next few years. The Chicago Tribune's editorial board notices that Obamacare's roster of losers seems to grow by the day:
If President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders think the outcry against Obamacare is fierce now, watch if millions more Americans get blindsided with the news that they'll be forced into these dysfunctional government online marketplaces. Some will face higher premiums or higher deductibles, and they'll be required to share private medical and financial information on a website with a questionable security firewall, opening them to fraudsters, hackers and cyberchaos...The full brunt of Obamacare's impact on Americans is still gathering. Every law creates winners and losers, but with this law so far, the losers are piling up.
Click through for their rundown of this list. The fundamental lie of Obamacare was that there were no losers. Everyone will benefit! Lower national spending! Less healthcare-related deficit spending! Substantially decreased rates for everyone! Keep your doctor! Keep your plan! These blanket promises were never going to be honored, yet they were routinely articulated by the law's advocates. Today's retroactive attempt to introduce the concept of trade-offs has been particularly wrenching for Democrats because of how much political capital they've spent in recent years denying or downplaying these exact critiques. Another categorical vow from the Obamacare set is that lower-income Americans will qualify for generous taxpayer subsidies to offset rising health costs. A National Journal analysis concluded that for a majority of families and individuals forced into the group market, government subsidies won't be sufficient to reduce net expenses. New reporting from CNN echoes a point that conservative wonks like Philip Klein have been making for months -- namely, that many young, healthy, lower-income people won't receive any subsidies at all. Because a fair chunk of this cohort eschews insurance already, the sticker shock will be intense:
One of the basic tenets of Obamacare is that the government will help lower-income Americans -- anyone making less than about $45,900 a year -- pay for the health insurance everyone is now mandated to have. But a CNN analysis shows that in the largest city in nearly every state, many low-income younger Americans won't get any subsidy at all. Administration officials said the reason so many Americans won't receive a subsidy is that the cost of insurance is lower than the government initially expected. Subsidies are calculated using a complicated formula based on the cost of insurance premiums, which can vary drastically from state to state, and even county to county. That doesn't change the fact that in Chicago, a 27-year old will receive no subsidy to help offset premiums of more than $165 a month if he makes more than $27,400 a year. In Portland, Oregon, subsidies for individuals making just $28,725 a year phase out for those younger than 35 years old...Back in April, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a congressional subcommittee that any individual making under that $45,960 threshold -- or four times the poverty level of $11,490 for an individual -- would qualify for "an upfront tax subsidy." "Somebody who's making $25,500 would definitely qualify for a subsidy if he or she is purchasing coverage in the individual market," Sebelius added. Despite the secretary's assurance, a 25-year-old living in Nashville, Tennessee, making $25,500 will not qualify for a subsidy, for example.
The Obama administration contends that this is actually good news because some of the premium costs are lower than they'd anticipated. But "lower than anticipated" is not the same as "lower." For young people who've been opting out of insurance, or who've been purchasing bare-bones catastrophic coverage, the new costs will be unaffordable. These are exactly the sorts of people Obamacare supporters must lure into the risk polls to make the law's financial model viable (and are thus far failing). If young urbanites discover that earning less than $30,000 per year makes them too wealthy to qualify for Obamacare subsidies, they very well may choose to simply pay the inexpensive Obamacare mandate tax and avoid the scheme altogether. That's also assuming that the IRS penalty structure will be enforced competently and efficiently -- a big question mark. As the Washington Post reports today, the enforcement process is shaping up to be a byzantine logistical hurdle, complicated by many moving and incomplete parts. Obamacare represents "“the largest expansion of IRS responsibilities in recent history,” a Treasury official tells the Post. Oh good. I'm sure the IRS' heavy involvement will do wonders to resuscitate Obamacare's image, in light of the agency's wide popularity and sterling reputation for even-handed fairness.
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