One Year Ago: The Obamacare Rollout

Posted: Oct 01, 2014 3:05 PM

On October 1, 2013, the 'Affordable' Care Act opened for business. What played out over the ensuing months will go down as one of the most catastrophic Washington failures in US history. The program's buggy, broken website crashed repeatedly. Obamacare's under-vetted navigators turned customers away in droves. Consumers were sent to nonexistent brick-and-mortar enrollment locations. Millions of Americans' existing plans have been canceled, as required by the law's new coverage mandates (with millions more in the pipeline). Costs, both in terms of premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, have soared for many. Major pieces of the law have since been unilaterally altered and delayed, while multiple states have abandoned their proprietary exchanges, flushing away hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars in the process. In spite of the administration's triumphal spin, enrollment figures have fallen far short of expectations, with risk pools looking older and sicker than projected. The nation's healthcare tab is still growing.  Access to preferred doctors and hospitals has been curtailed.  And, dogged by data security concerns, remains under construction and won't be fully functional for November's second open enrollment period.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.  President Obama and Democratic acolytes insisted that Obamacare would be an effective legislative panacea. Tens of millions would be welcomed into the ranks of the insured, costs would fall across the board, healthcare-related deficits would be reduced, Medicare's benefits would be untouched and its solvency strengthened, lives would be saved -- and every single person who was satisfied with his or her healthcare arrangement would be entirely unaffected.  The law would produce no losers and contain no trade-offs -- and its critics were heartless, ideological liars.  The NRSC is out with a new video reminding the American people who really lied:

Public opinion on Obamacare has been upside-down by double digits for years now, dragged under by serial betrayals of its central promises.  Its defenders can assert its 'success' til they're blue in the face; their tendentious protestations will not change reality.  The incomplete roster of flaws and failures enumerated above keeps growing.  More cancellation notices:

Thousands of Americans will see their health plans cancelled before the November elections in a development that could boost critics of ObamaCare.  The Morning Consult, a Washington-based policy publication, reported that nearly 50,000 people will lose their current health coverage in the coming weeks.  Further cancellations this fall will arrive because state regulators only allowed the "keep your plan" fix to last one year or because insurers decided to stop offering the old policies on their own.

In New Mexico alone:

A trend toward high up-front, out of pocket costs for hospital patients:

Get ready to whip out your credit card before you are wheeled into the operating room or undergo an MRI. Hospitals are increasingly asking patients to pay for procedures either upfront or before they are discharged. That's because Americans are shouldering a greater portion of their health care bills, and medical centers don't want to get stuck with patients that can't pay...Starting the cost conversation early is especially important now because patients are facing higher deductibles and larger payments for services. Some are surprised to find out that they have to fork over thousands of dollars before their insurance even kicks in, hospital administrators said. The policies available on the Obamacare exchanges are hastening this trend. Many enrollees are opting for the bronze and silver plans, which often carry deductibles upwards of $5,000 and $2,000, respectively. "The bronze plans are scaring a lot of administrators because the patient liability is so large," said Debra Lowe, administrative director of revenue cycle at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center. "Patients are unaware they have this high deductible."

Disappearing coverage and subsidies for ineligible beneficiaries, many of whom are in for some unpleasant surprises as a result of ongoing 'back end' discrepancies:

Hundreds of thousands of Americans face a Tuesday deadline to verify their income and are at risk of losing or having to pay back their federal health-insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. The need for people to pay back the government could become a headache during next year's tax season, when Americans are expected to pay back any subsidies they weren't eligible for. The Obama administration has told more than 300,000 individuals who obtained coverage through the federal site that they may lose some or all of the subsidies if they don't provide additional income information that jibes with Internal Revenue Service data. That information includes tax returns, wages and tax statements, pay stubs and letters from employers. Hundreds of thousands of people who obtained health coverage through state exchanges also have documentation issues and could potentially be getting subsidies they aren't eligible for.

And another adverse judicial ruling on the issue of subsidies in the states, stemming from the law's explicit verbiage:

A federal judge has sided with Oklahoma in its lawsuit challenging some subsidies offered to people who buy insurance under the health care law. U.S. District Judge Ronald White is the latest to weigh in on regulations that allow health insurance tax credits under the Affordable Care Act in all 50 states...Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt sued in 2011, claiming that the law didn't explicitly allow subsidies for people who bought insurance in states, like Oklahoma, that didn't set up their own insurance exchanges. In a ruling Tuesday, White agreed, saying the regulation was "an abuse of discretion."

Is it any wonder that most of Obamacare's supposed champions have been unwilling to touch it with a ten foot pole this election year? Democrats' bravado about "running on Obamacare" was just that: Bravado.  I'll leave you with this -- pay special attention, seniors:

Happy anniversary, America.