Obamacare's second enrollment period has been far less technologically embarrassing than the famous debacle of 2013 and 2014 -- but despite billions of taxpayer dollars having been spent on the website, it still didn't go off without a hitch:
A technical problem that had been interfering with sign-ups for President Barack Obama's health care law has been fixed, officials say. Any consumer whose enrollment was hampered by the glitch will be provided with a special enrollment period. The problem popped up the day before a Sunday deadline to sign up for subsidized private health insurance. It had been intermittent, meaning some people were able to complete their applications and submit them...Some people trying to get coverage hadn't been able to get their income information electronically verified. That's crucial because the amount of financial assistance to help pay premiums is based on people's income. The health care law offers health insurance to people who don't have coverage on the job. More than 8 in 10 of those who apply qualify for help. Without it, most can't afford the coverage.
The "Affordable" Care Act isn't affordable for "most" enrollees without hefty taxpayer assistance. Even with the subsidies, many consumers are discovering that they can't afford the substantial out-of-pocket costs beyond the premiums, while others are turned off by coverage plans' inconvenient and narrow networks. A Bloomberg piece published last week entitled, "Yep, Obamacare Costs a Fortune" lays out why expenses beyond monthly rates (which are still on the rise) are hitting Obamacare consumers hard:
Start with annual deductibles. For bronze plans in 2015, they're enormous -- $5,372, or about five times what the average person with employer-based individual coverage faced last year. More important, and potentially worrisome for the law's defenders: Average deductibles for silver plans (the most popular type of exchange coverage) are about three times as high as on employer plans. Even gold plans have slightly higher average deductibles.
Click through for more details on costs like co-pays and out-of-pocket maximums. Over the weekend, I participated in a Fox News segment regarding what Republicans should do if the Supreme Court correctly reads the law as written by Democrats and strikes down subsidies in most states. I've addressed that question in several posts. The Democrat on the panel claimed that Republicans have no alternatives to Obamacare, are obsessed with failed repeal votes, and that the law is a success:
Paul Ryan is right that the GOP needs to unite around a plan (and a rhetorical strategy to combat Democrats' inevitable, furious blame storm over their own failures), but it's not true that the party hasn't offered any alternatives over the years; they produced another version within the last few weeks. It's also untrue that all of their repeal votes were futile. And it's most untrue that Obamacare is working. It's not. Even with the expected last-minute flurry, the administration's projections have been downgraded substantially -- plus, it's not a "success" when people sign up for a product after the government…requires them by law to sign up for that product. The law was marketed as a means of reducing everyone's healthcare costs, including the governments, improving care, and allowing satisfied parties to maintain their existing plans and doctors. None of these promises have been kept. On MSNBC last week, Ed Schultz actually had a guest on who's been harmed by Obamacare (significantly more people who've been impacted by the law have been hurt than helped). After hearing the man's story, Big Ed declared it no big deal:
The gentleman describes how he and his family have had their preferred coverage and doctors stripped away, prompting Ed to say that at least they're not getting denied coverage (which wasn't their problem in the first place), and shrugging that all they have to do is "pay a little more, that's all." Only every major pledge made to you hasn't been kept. That's all! Stop whining. There's a winning message. Obamacare supporter Bill Maher, who prefers a Native American healthcare- and VA-style 'single payer' government-run system, is waking up to the fact that the law is falling far short of promises and hurting a lot of people:
Maher said he still thinks that Obamacare has been good for those with preexisting conditions and for those who were able to get insurance because of the bill, he is no longer sure Obamacare has been so grand overall. “But The New York Times on Sunday did an article that basically said, you know, when Obama said if you like your plan nothing will change — well, everything has changed,” Maher said. “46 percent of people are having trouble paying health care costs now, up 10 percent from a year ago because the deductibles went the up, the co-pays went up. They can’t see the doctor they used to see because he’s in a different network. They go to get questions answered and they’re talking to somebody reading a script in the Philippines. It’s like your prostate cancer is being handled by Comcast now.” “The most frightening thing in this article is when somebody said ‘it’s so confusing, I’ve just stopped seeing a doctor’ — and that’s going on a lot, apparently,” Maher later added. “People are just not going because it’s more expensive, too confusing and I think this was intentional. I think the insurance companies wanted this to happen because that’s how they make money. ”
Maher lays the blame on greedy insurance companies, of course, but this was President Obama's law. Jonathan Gruber has admitted that "cost containment" was a pipe dream cooked up to garner public support for a redistributionist scheme. He co-opted much of the insurance industry (not that they had much choice), but policies have consequences. And several of those consequences are turning out to be unpleasant surprises for average people -- in the form of unkept promises, extra taxes owed, buggy websites, and "unexpected" tax fines:
Three senior House members told The Associated Press that they plan to strongly urge the administration to grant a special sign-up opportunity for uninsured taxpayers who will be facing fines under the law for the first time this year. The three are Michigan's Sander Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, and Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington, and Lloyd Doggett of Texas. All worked to help steer Obama's law through rancorous congressional debates from 2009-2010. The lawmakers say they are concerned that many of their constituents will find out about the penalties after it's already too late for them to sign up for coverage, since open enrollment ended Sunday.
Oh, right: The individual mandate tax nobody's heard about. Sure, people might be angry when they get punished for not buying insurance. But they might get even angrier when they see what insurance costs, and what that "coverage" buys them. By the way, these three Democrats all opposed Republican efforts to delay the individual mandate tax last year, natch.