All Aboard for the Obamacare Train Wreck

Posted: Aug 02, 2013 7:42 PM
All Aboard for the Obamacare Train Wreck

Montana Senator Max Baucus, who led the effort in Congress to pass Obamacare, is now referring to it as a “coming train wreck”. Baucus has announced he will not to seek re-election in 2014, perhaps to avoid the inevitable embarrassment of this pending disaster. He’s not alone in his concern. The prospect that too few Americans will enroll in the program, thus rendering it unfeasible, has the administration fearful that Baucus is right -- it may actually end up derailed. These enrollment fears have prompted the creation of dubious non-profit organizations to promote Obamacare. Enroll America and Organizing for Action are tax-exempt organizations, led by former Obama campaign operatives, which plan to spend tens of millions of dollars pitching Obamacare enrollment. Their funding primarily comes from special interests and healthcare related corporations who stand to profit from Obamacare.

Success or failure of Obamacare depends on the administration’s ability to sign up a large portion of the 50 million Americans currently without health insurance. One group that is particularly vital to Obamacare’s success are young adults, ages 18 to 35, who will pay more into the system than what they will take out in healthcare benefits. Private health insurance companies have long-attempted to enroll young, healthy Americans to offset the costs of care for the elderly -- but it’s proven to be a near impossible task. Many young people simply choose to avoid the burden of monthly expenses for healthcare policies they don’t believe are necessary. If this demographic was a tough sell for private insurance companies before Obamacare, it will be even more difficult now. A survey of insurers, conducted by the American Action Forum, reveals that a health insurance policy for a 27-year-old male nonsmoker will be 190 percent higher under Obamacare.

Obamacare is now relying on a simple math equation. By 2016, the Administration will need 22 million uninsured Americans signed up with new state-based insurance exchanges or the federal government’s program. Enrollment begins on October 1, with a goal of at least 7 million people onboard over the next year. Included in this goal are 2.7 million young adults who aren’t exactly enthusiastic about signing up. Needless to say, it will require a massive public relations and education campaign to get these young people signed up. Congress hasn’t provided Obama with the funding to make this happen but that’s not stopping the Administration from finding other methods to achieve its goals.

On queue, several private non-profit tax-exempt organizations, managed by former Obama political operatives, have popped up to do the job. But there are serious questions about whether organizations like Enroll America are really operating as non-profits. Enroll America’s board of directors includes representatives of “for-profit” healthcare providers such as Teva Pharmaceuticals and Kaiser Permanente—big business interests that will clearly profit from Obamacare enrollment. Big insurance companies such as Aetna and Blue Shield, who rely on young adult enrollment with their companies, have also jumped on board. Tom Epstein, Vice-President of Public Affairs for Blue Shield is a member of the board of directors for Enroll America. Epstein is clear about the benefit to Blue Shield, “We're losing money on individual policies right now. We'll definitely need to make some money in the exchange."

Congress is now investigating Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ use of her office to raise money and support for these non-profits from private sector special interests --a potential ethics violation.

Enroll America launched a major grassroots campaign this summer to help educate and pre-enroll uninsured Americans. Their “Get Covered America” campaign kicked off with 78 events in 26 states and included community meetings, grassroots training and door-to-door neighborhood canvasing. They are keeping their donors and budget out of the public eye, but have announced they will spend millions on both grassroots and paid media to get young people enrolled in Obamacare.

Enroll America’s tax exempt status should be revoked. It represents the epitome of corporate welfare and political cronyism. The public should be outraged that big healthcare corporations and big government are teaming up to profit from a government healthcare takeover. If Obamacare truly offered the healthcare utopia originally sold to the American public, there would be no need to spend millions of dollars trying to persuade individuals to join the program, and there would be no need to create questionable front groups like Enroll America. Congress must thoroughly investigate the Administration’s role with these questionable non-profits to ensure there is no violation of the law or federal ethics rules, and make sure businesses are not colluding with government agencies to benefit their bottom lines. Rather than helping Obama avert the coming train wreck, these special interests and corporations would be better off allowing Obamacare to fail, thus saving the American public from an unhealthy and unaffordable healthcare disaster.