Drip: Costs of Obamacare Exchanges Double

Posted: Apr 11, 2013 4:01 PM

This is my shocked face.  The price tag of Obamacare has already jumped at pretty much every level -- for families, individuals, businesses, and the federal government -- so stories like these are par for the course:

The $1.3 trillion U.S. health-care system overhaul is getting more expensive and will initially accomplish less than intended. Costs for a network of health-insurance exchanges, a core part of the Affordable Care Act, have swelled to $4.4 billion for fiscal 2012 and 2013 combined, and will reach $5.7 billion in 2014, according to the budget President Barack Obama yesterday sent to Congress. That spending would be more than double initial projections, even though less than half the 50 U.S. states are participating. The unanticipated spending is a consequence of an ambitious timetable dictated by Congress and a complex new way of offering people medical coverage, say analysts, lobbyists and administration officials. Combine that with a majority of Republican governors declining to cooperate with a Democratic president and U.S. regulators are left grasping to get the 2010 health law up and running by a Jan. 1, 2014, deadline. For the areas that money can’t solve, the Obama administration is opting for delay. It temporarily backed off some provisions of the law, including restrictions on coverage for executives and a promise to offer small businesses greater choices of health plans.  

Costing more, and doing less.  What a deal.  Remember, the federal government simply assumed that every state would set up its own exchange -- despite strong public opposition to the law, and high associated costs coupled with heavy-handed federal mandates with scant flexibility.  More than half of the states have thus declined to bear the burden of these exchanges, requiring the feds to step in.  This outcome was apparently unforeseeable to Obamacare's brilliant advocates and administrators.  Today's news of ballooning costs arises from items within the president's new budget, which includes a new regressive cigarette tax on the poor.  (Yes, smoking has also been deemed to be a protected pre-existing condition under Obamacare).  While there are a lot of elements to attack within Obama's extreme budget proposal, his very modest entitlement reforms shouldn't be among them  -- even though he's insisting on additional enormous tax hikes as the price of admission to needed reforms.  I cautioned Republicans last week against taking cheap shots over Obama's miniature olive branch on Social Security and Medicare, and yet:

Remember those warnings about how instead of welcoming President Obama’s adoption of Chained CPI, Republicans would continue to deny him a budget deal and attack him for proposing to cut Social Security? Well Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) — who also happens to be chairman of the House GOP’s re-election committee — just showed how it’s done, saying Obama’s budget “lays out a shocking attack on seniors.” “I’ll tell you when you’re going after seniors the way he’s already done on Obamacare, taken $700 billion out of Medicare to put into Obamacare and now coming back at seniors again, I think you’re crossing that line very quickly here in terms of denying access to seniors for health care in districts like mine certainly and around the country,” he said on CNN Wednesday afternoon.  

No, no, no.  Reforms to these programs are essential.  Conservatives must resist the temptation to bury their heads in the sand for possible short term political advantage.  That's what liberals are for.  To underscore this point, Paul Ryan and the Club for Growth defended the president and denounced Walden's ham-fisted and wrong-headed attack. 

UPDATE - NBC/WSJ: Our underwater president.  I'm sensing a pattern here.

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