When the Obama administration declared Healthcare.gov "fixed" earlier this month, the announcement spawned a flurry of media reports about Congressional Democrats' fears being allayed by the news. As an aside, the website's technical troubles are hardly a thing of the past, for reasons we'll discuss below -- but the front end experience has been substantially improved. Ron Fournier wondered just how long jittery Democrats would be appeased. The detente appears to have lasted less than one week:
Senate Democrats facing tough reelections say President Obama has not done enough to fix the botched rollout of his healthcare law and are vowing to repair it themselves. The Senate Democratic leadership is not on board with lawmaker plans to begin rewriting ObamaCare and have urged for more time to assess the changes made by Obama and his team, lawmakers say...Shaheen wants to extend the enrollment period for the ACA; Landrieu wants to mandate that insurance companies continue to offer plans that people like, even if they don’t meet the law’s requirements; and Udall wants to expand the pool of people included in the individual insurance marketplace. “I’m not satisfied yet,” said Shaheen. “I’m still talking to people in New Hampshire to see what challenges we’re facing.” “We have had a conversation about possibly introducing a package of fixes at the appropriate time,” she added in a later conversation.
Shaheen and Landrieu have been discussing their supposed improvements for some time, evidently unaware that both ideas would further cripple the law they've supported at every turn. An extended enrollment period would deepen Obamacare's adverse selection problem, which would negatively impact 2015 premiums. Landrieu's proposal would take a huge bite out of Obamacare's funding mechanism, which relies on millions of people being forced to pay more for mandate-heavy plans. This would also impact risk pools and premiums in an unsustainable way. But Landrieu isn't interested in sound policy; she's interested in saving her ass. Meanwhile, in addition to large portions of the website's back end still being constructed, and the ongoing 834 error nightmare, here's another problematic bug hitting consumers on Healthcare.gov -- the site that's supposedly working:
The federal health care exchange is incorrectly determining that some people are eligible for Medicaid when they clearly are not, leaving them with little chance to get the subsidized insurance they are entitled to as the Dec. 23 deadline for enrollment approaches...Here's what happens: When consumers applying for insurance put their income information into subsidy calculators on HealthCare.gov — the exchange handling insurance sales for 36 states — it tells them how much financial assistance they qualify for or that they are eligible for Medicaid...Brokers are reporting that some of their clients are in insurance limbo as they wait for the error to be corrected by HHS or their states so they can reapply. Jessica Waltman, top lobbyist for the National Association of Health Underwriters, says she's heard a number of reports from around the country of people making as much as $80,000 a year being told they qualify for Medicaid on HealthCare.gov.
Individuals making $80k aren't eligible for subsidies, let alone Medicaid, under Obamacare. And as Ezekiel Emanuel's dissembling helped remind us on Sunday, the law's fundamental problems have nothing to do with the horrendous roll-out. The New York Times reports on unhappy customers discovering that the more "affordable" premium price points on Obamacare's exchanges entail major new out-of-pocket expenses, not the least of which are spiking deductibles. USA Today writes that small businesses are discovering that Obamacare is unaffordable and confusing. The Washington Post piles on with tales of compliance "nightmares" that will slam businesses under the new law. These unpleasant realizations will undoubtedly contribute to the coming second wave of insurance cancellations in 2014, as business owners will see little choice but to throw up their hands and dump their employees into the exchanges rather than confront the sticker shock and compliance migranes. I'll leave you with Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) -- a medical doctor -- taking a wrecking ball to the left-wing myth that Republicans have no alternatives or solutions on healthcare: