WH: Why Of Course We Stand By Kathleen Sebelius, Despite Obamacare's Historic Failures

Posted: Oct 17, 2013 10:22 AM

Anyone surprised? I mean, this guy still has his job, as does everyone who dropped the ball over Benghazi. Not to worry, Kathleen -- the program you're overseeing may be a trainwreck of epic proportions, but your job is safe:

The White House stood by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday, as Republicans called for her resignation over the botched rollout of ObamaCare. The primary website for consumers to sign up for insurance is still not functioning as promised, two weeks since its launch. Jay Carney said Tuesday that President Obama still trusts Sebelius’s stewardship of his signature legislative achievement. "The secretary does have the full confidence of the president," Carney said during his daily press briefing. Republicans have said Sebelius should resign or be fired over the problems facing healthcare.gov — the portal for consumers in 36 states to shop for and buy insurance. The site was unusable when it came online, and is still not fully functional two weeks later.

One veteran Congressional Democrat has been even more generous, opining that absolutely no one should be fired over the healthcare meltdown. Ah, the fringe benefits of government work. The law's technical snafus continue to pile up, and may be months away from operating somewhat adequately. CNN calls it a "debacle." In Maryland, one of the most prepared, pro-Obamacare blue states to create its own exchange, the Democratic governor has been forced to admit their system won't be running properly for at least another month. That bodes very poorly for less prepared states, and especially the federal system -- elements of which haven't even been tested yet. I'll again implore you to read Megan McArdle's dissection of the problems, which are exclusively the fault of the administration. They made bad procurement choices, they withheld key regulations until after the election for political reasons, and they ignored a slew of warnings and missed deadlines. But its screwy mechanics are just one slice of its problems, as average people are discovering with each passing day. Take, for instance, these Oregonians' premium sticker shock:

The Obamacare spokesman quoted in the piece gives positive spin the old college try, but comes up empty. Premiums going up? Well, you're getting more! Don't need more, but want to keep your old plan? Well, um, try to "shop around!" Talking around the problem won't make it go away: If you like your plan, you can't necessarily keep it, and costs are increasing significantly for many people. This news package also emphasizes lower deductibles as a trade-off for upped monthly premiums. But the Chicago Tribune exposes the out-of-pocket cost trap in a scalding editorial:

Illinois officials boasted that insurance premiums here would be lower than expected. But the Tribune reported Sunday that 21 of the 22 lowest-priced plans offered for Cook County residents have whopping annual deductibles of more than $4,000 for an individual and $8,000 for family coverage. That’s much more than many families can afford to pay.

Consumers on the cheapest Illinois plans will have to plunk down at least $4,000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses before their benefits (for which they're paying higher premiums) even kick in. The Tribune editorial board goes on to endorse Republicans' call for a one-year Obamacare delay. That might help get the website gears grinding along better, but it won't fix all of the other problems: Dropped coverage, higher costs, increased national cost curve, and limited access to care. I'll leave you with the story of a young couple in Michigan who are expecting their first child. They've been forced to cancel cable and sell a car in order to pay for a new, Obamacare-caused deductible spike:

UPDATE - Earlier in the week, we highlighted a DailyKos denizen freaking out over Obamacare's soaring costs. Another lefty -- Mother Jones' Kevin Drum -- is very concerned about the program's obvious failure to launch. "I really, really hope there's a Plan B," he writes, suggesting something like phone banks. His answer comes, appropriately from Kathleen Sebelius, speaking in the spring: No,” Sebelius said when asked whether there’s a backup plan in case that deadline slips. “We are determined and on track to meet the Oct. 1 deadline.” Stellar work, Kathy. The president has full confidence in you.

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