LOS ANGELES, November 16, 2013 — All of this scrambling by President Barack Obama and Congress to reinstate cancelled insurance policies is nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
It may look better, but the ship is still going down. It is just a matter of when.
We are watching as rats — the Congressional Democrats — quickly swim away from the damage they have caused. The people in steerage — the individuals who lost their insurance policies — are drowning in the wreckage. The first class passengers — the well-off who can afford to pay higher premiums — are heading for the few available life boats.
There is nothing romantic about this Titanic; it is a real-life tragedy happening to Americans who can ill afford it.
The summary of a Democratic Senate white paper entitled “Responsible Reform for the Middle Class” touts the benefits of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”):
“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will ensure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care and will create the transformation within the health care system necessary to contain costs. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has determined that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is fully paid for, will provide coverage to more than 94% of Americans while staying under the $900 billion limit that President Obama established, bending the health care cost curve, and reducing the deficit over the next ten years and beyond.”
Aside from the ironic title, this statement is proving as false as, “If you like your plan, you can keep it.”
Just shy of six weeks to the end of 2013, over 4 million Americans have been told they are losing the insurance they thought would be secure. Many of them do not know whether after January 1 they will still have coverage, or what that coverage will look like.
The Obama Administration spent over $600 million on a website that is an insult to any web developer, and every time they attempt to apply a “fix,” new problems are unmasked.
Doctors and hospitals are in the dark about whether they or their patients will be able to participate in the exchanges. Some doctors are opting out altogether. Premiere institutions like Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai are running costly television and radio advertisements encouraging their patients to be sure their hospital is included in their coverage.
The Obamacare ship is taking on water faster than Alec Baldwin takes on lawsuits, but instead of bilge pumps and boards to mitigate the damage, the Obama Administration is using buckets and bandaids.
The president’s pledge to allow insurers to temporarily extend plans will not solve the problem, and will potentially cause more damage — that at least is what actual insurance experts are saying. After Obama’s announcement, Karen Ignagni president of America’s Health Insurance Plans did damage control:
“Making sure consumers have secure, affordable coverage is health plans’ top priority. The only reason consumers are getting notices about their current coverage changing is because the ACA requires all policies to cover a broad range of benefits that go beyond what many people choose to purchase today.
“Changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers. Premiums have already been set for next year based on an assumption of when consumers will be transitioning to the new marketplace. If now fewer younger and healthier people choose to purchase coverage in the exchange, premiums will increase and there will be fewer choices for consumers.”
Today Politico announced that Obama has called a meeting of insurance CEOs for this afternoon. But more scrambling and window dressing will not repair the gaping damage nor will it right this ship.
The Upton bill passed the House of Representatives this afternoon, 261 to 157, with 39 Democrats joining the Republican ranks. While this law allows insurers to renew individual insurance policies and sell similar policies to new customers next year — even if the coverage does not provide all the benefits and consumer protections required by Obamacare — the president has already declared he will veto the bill if it passes the Senate.
This is all academic posturing and grandstanding, a politically naked and desperate attempt to fend off losses to the Democrat party in 2014. Both the Upton bill and Obama’s decree undermine Obamacare’s central goal of forcing healthy people into costly exchange plans that subsidize the sick. For the law to actually work, something will need to be done to hold that board in place, otherwise the gaping hole in the deck becomes a crater in the structure of the entire ship.
The young and healthy must sign up on the exchanges in order to create a viable risk pool. According to a Manhattan Institute study of the Department of Health and Human Services numbers, a 27-year-old male will pay a 99 percent higher premium under Obamacare than he would under existing — or what existed before the law’s implementation — market rates. As Carl Schramm explains in the Wall Street Journal, “One reason is that the law now limits insurers to charging the sickest seniors no more than three times the amount they charge their youngest customers. Given that 64-year-olds use on average six times as much health care as 19-year-olds, the Affordable Care Act forces young people to pay considerably more than the cost of their own care.”
Despite the money being poured into promoting the benefits of Obamacare, which include offensive ads featuring “bros” and “hos,” drinking, and allusions to casual sex, young people are still staying away. One Kansas City Star reporter interviewed young people about Obamacare, and the responses ranged from lackluster to downright defiance.
“Clint Looper, 26, who came from a farm in North Carolina to attend law school at UMKC, hasn’t attempted to enroll on the healthcare.gov website. He doesn’t like the ACA largely because to his thinking it does little to address the high costs of health care. … Once a Democrat, he said he became a Libertarian after taking a political science class.
“‘There are few things the government does well,’ Looper said. ‘The overall intent of Obamacare is good. They tried to help people, to make insurance affordable. But programs that help people, that give something to someone, are not sustainable.’”
Another young woman who was interviewed said, “It might be a great thing, but the hippie in me says there will be karma — with the good will come a big, fat negative.”
She hit the nail on the head. This is only a random sampling of a Midwestern city. Multiply that by the 18-34 year old set in smaller cities, and the larger urban areas of Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, and you are looking at a massive problem.
The Obama Administration and Obamacare loyalists continue to say this will improve once the website is up and running. But if the Kansas City Star article is any sort of litmus test for the rest of the nation, the odds are not in their favor.
Fewer than 150,000 people signed up for insurance through Obamacare exchanges in the October. Healthcare.gov only saw 27,000, and there is still no guarantee that these individuals will actually have policies on January 1.
The poorly performing Healthcare.gov website is still not up to speed, nor will it be by November 30 deadline the administration set in October. As they attempt to fix the website, programmers are discovering more glitches, and more security holes. During the House Oversight Committee hearings on Wednesday, White House’s Chief Technology Officer Todd Park bragged that the site was showing improvements, with 25,000 users able to be on the website per hour, and 17,000 able to register each hour.
This is a reflection of the administration’s tenuous grip on reality. Sites like Amazon, EBay, and Yahoo! handle millions of unique visitors on any given day, and complete millions of actual business transactions. Park has little to brag about. It’s like comparing the speed of a Schwinn bicycle to a Porsche. The young and the tech savvy know a fail when they see it, and this only seals the deal that the healthcare exchanges are not the route they will choose.
The young uninsured have little to lose by waiting until the March 31 deadline to sign up, and those with means and resources can always find alternatives. The very people that this law was supposed to help — the uninsured, the sick, and the poor — are still treading water, and more than likely they will drown.
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