LOS ANGELES, January 1, 2014 — We have finally arrived at January 1, 2014: the day Obamacare goes into full effect. People who successfully signed up on the federal and state exchanges and who paid their first premium now have full coverage under the law. For some Americans, this may be a source of joy, for others, not so much.
This poorly named law is proving to be anything but protective or affordable.
Some news outlets have painted a rosy picture about the same “gains” that the Obama administration has used for the past three years to sell the law: no coverage refusals on pre-existing conditions, adult children can stay on their parent’s plan until the age 26, end of lifetime caps, and “guaranteed” essential health benefits and preventative care.
So now, a 55-year old menopausal woman has birth control coverage, as well as pregnancy coverage and care. In the words or Garfield, “Big, fat, hairy deal.” Add in the cartoon cat’s underwhelmed look, and you have the reaction of many.
ABC News at least had the decency to point out the “woes” that are incorporated with the “wows”; coverage insecurity being among them. Due to the well-documented website problems (federal and certain states, including California), and a back log of paper applications, there are many who have signed up who still do not know whether they are covered today or not; some don’t even know who they are to pay for said coverage.
Add to this mix the new taxes, along with the sticker shock due to hiked premiums and deductibles, and you have the alchemy for more blow ups and disasters over the opening months of 2014.
In closing out 2013, the Obama administration boasted about the over 1 million enrollments on the federal Exchange for December, while browbeating and threatening the insurance industry to keep covering those 6 million (and rising) policies that were cancelled because of the law’s new requirements.
As Tim Schroeder @balancedoctor posted on Twitter: “#Obamacare canceled my plan. I applied #coveredca Oct 3. They have failed to cover my family. 10 mil canceled 1 mil enrolled is not victory.”
And the hits will only keep coming.
The Des Moines Register online reported that 16,000 Iowans have received a notice that, despite signing up on the federal exchange, they also may not be covered today:
“The announcement affects people who entered their information into healthcare.gov and received a notice that they might qualify for Medicaid. The federal computer system was supposed to transfer their applications to a state computer system, but that transfer has been complicated by technical problems. The timing is critical, because the new insurance coverage is supposed to take effect on New Year’s Day, which is Wednesday.
“State officials say they can’t guarantee that people in this situation will have coverage if they need to see a doctor before the mess is untangled.”
This is only one state, and not even a highly populous one. Iowa has three million or so residents, versus 38 million in California. Other states could also be experiencing the same dilemma as Iowa, but large exchanges like Covered California are being coy with their numbers and quiet about actual problems.
Make no mistake: problems exist and may be bigger than we are led to believe. Like Tim Schroeder’s Twitter post, other Twitter users are also making use of the CoveredCA hashtag to talk about the problems: the crashes, the long wait times, and the dropped chat and phone conversations while they attempt to enroll on this one site.
While this represents a microcosm of the potential fallout, like that small segment of Iowans, Americans who signed up and paid will now know whether this gave them access to their doctors and hospitals or merely gave them a goose egg.
Cue the hysteria in 3… 2… 1.
While we are talking about payments, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that half of the individuals who have successfully enrolled on the federal exchange still have not paid their bill to secure coverage. So what does this bode for a new health insurance system when funding that insurers are relying upon does not come through? What does this say about the actual importance of health insurance to individuals who do not feel they need it until they are in a true health crisis or emergency, and would rather pay a penalty than a premium? Fasten your seat belts, we will discover the answer to these questions over the coming months.
The final straw that will break the back of Americans are the new taxes imposed under this law. On Christmas Day 2013, the New York Post outlined some of the new taxes and fees consumers have to look forward to because of Obamacare, including a 2 percent levy on every health plan; a $2 fee per policy; a 3.5 percent user fee to sell medical plans on the HealthCare.gov website; the 2.3 percent medical-device tax that will inflate the cost of items such as pacemakers, stents and prosthetic limbs; and the new Medicare tax.
These are just the tip of the iceberg, as many more new taxes are embedded and hidden within the language of this law. The IRS is already sharpening its enforcement claws to extract blood from overtaxed and overwrought Americans. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act indeed.
While the 2013 post-mortem on Obamacare was being dissected by the news media, the Obama administration quietly confirmed that Michelle Snyder, the No. 2 official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is retiring. Personal timing, or a rat fleeing the sinking ship?
Either way, it certainly won’t be the last, as this disaster of a law rolls out in full force.