LOS ANGELES, November 23, 2013 — After President Obama’s backpedle on the cancellation of individual insurance policies, the administration has regrouped with guns blazing. According to Thursday’s Politico, Obama held an “off-the-record” meeting with liberal reporters and bloggers including MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, and Fox News contributor Juan Williams.
Williams appeared on the Fox News program “The Five” and said he couldn’t reveal the president’s remarks, but would give the context of the meeting. The goal of the meeting was to discuss how to get control of the messaging on the Affordable Care Act. Williams described the administration to be in “full fight mode”.
Earlier this year, Obama had taken full ownership of the “Obamacare” brand and used it freely when discussing the ACA. Now when Obama and the Democrats talk about the law, the “Obamacare” label has been replaced with the law’s actual name.
One of the rules of successful branding is that you change the name to reform the image, but a poorly drafted law by any other name still stinks to high heaven. Those cancelled insurance policies cannot be reinstated, the president and his administration still lied about it, and insurance companies are still going to charge more in order to comply with the provisions of Obamacare and try to keep their industry afloat.
“Blame the Republicans” is one of the strategies making a comeback. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post must have received the memo, because he penned a piece on Tuesday doing just that. Milbank accuses Republicans of using a “scary-movie strategy” to keep the young and healthy from signing up on the exchanges.
“The Republicans’ scary-movie strategy has some logic to it: If they can frighten young and healthy people from joining the health-care exchanges, the exchanges will become expensive and unmanageable. This is sabotage, plain and simple — much like the refusal by red-state governors to participate in setting up the exchanges in the first place. But those sabotaging the new law should be careful what they wish for: Instead of killing the law, they are likely to make it more expensive to taxpayers.”
Young people are staying away without any help from the Republicans. Obamacare has already become more expensive for the taxpayer, particularly the 2-5 million who have lost, or are in the process of losing, their policies. Sticker shock is the order of the day on and off the exchanges, and with cancellations estimated in the 100 million from the employer-based insurance plans, the number of uninsured is likely to jump from the 30 million or so who were the original impetus behind the drafting and implementation of this law.
The hard numbers from the Covered California exchange were released on Thursday. While the progression reflected increased enrollment through November 19, out of 79,891 enrollees, only 22.5 percent of those can be placed in the 18-34 bracket. The lion’s share, the 45-64 age bracket, represents 39 percent of enrollments; many of those will end up on Medi-Cal, the state sponsored medical insurance arm. Should the trend of low enrollments among the young and healthy continue, the guarantee of subsidizing the old and unhealthy will fail, and the industry will implode upon itself. Those are not scare tactics, but cold, hard facts. The administration’s goal is to have 2.7 million young and healthy signed onto the exchanges by the December 15 deadline. Good luck with that.
Forbes takes note of this skewed data, and points out that New York, the other populous state with its own exchange, is showing similar numbers.
“The problem, of course, is adverse selection,” Scott Gottlieb writes. “If only older, and by inference sicker individuals sign up for Obamacare, it will force the program’s costs – and in turn premiums – to rise. This will further discourage the younger, healthier members that the administration needs to enroll into Obamacare to make the scheme viable.”
The assumption of the Obama administration and Milbank is that young people are easily manipulated. This is most apparent in the amount of money being poured into marketing toward this demographic.
Yesterday, Los Angeles radio host Hugh Hewitt interviewed Covered California deputy director of communications Dana Howard. Howard said that $190 million was allotted toward the marketing of Covered California, but Howard could not — or would not — give hard numbers on how much money had already been spent, or supply any verifiable data on how many of the current enrollees could be matched to any Covered California marketing.
Back in October of 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services signed a $3 million deal with a public relations firm to promote the health insurance exchanges. Then in April, they inked another deal with another PR firm to the tune of an additional 8 million. Hollywood celebrities have gleefully cut ads encouraging the young to sign up. How’s all that PR working so far? The numbers tell the tale.
The debacle of the federal exchange rollout notwithstanding, the numbers do not bear out that this marketing is having any discernible effect. The young invincibles still aren’t buying into the scheme. The numbers from the California and New York exchanges, the law’s flagship test cases for the entire nation, could well be a harbinger of what the federal exchange numbers will look like once it is actually up and running.
The organization Young Invincibles glibly states that it is dedicated to expanding economic opportunities for young people. But its co-founder and executive director Aaron Smith is more focused on selling Obamacare to his peers. Smith penned an op-ed on CNN touting why Millennials should be signing up for the exchanges, and criticizing Generation Opportunities, a conservative group of Millennials who are encouraging their peers to opt out.
“Prior to the Affordable Care Act’s passage, too many Americans relied on lousy coverage not even worthy of the term insurance,” Smith writes. He continues the blatant lie the president tried a few weeks ago about “junk insurance.” This papier maché argument fell apart, as the insured pushed back, pointing out how the policies they had and that are now cancelled were exactly what they needed. Smith continues in his spin:
“In an effort to provide consumers with greater financial security, the Department of Health and Human Services identified 10 essential health benefits that all plans on HealthCare.gov must offer consumers. These benefits, like maternity and newborn care, prescription drug and mental health coverage, are particularly important to young people.”
These benefits are not so important to menopausal women, single men, or couples who choose not to have children. Being forced to pay hundreds more for services we neither need nor want is not a good marketing ploy, and only serves to annoy the young and old alike.
Both the Heritage Foundation and Investors Business Daily warned early on that this law would be the young man’s and young woman’s burden to bear. In August, the National Center for Public Policy Research showed that 18-34 year-olds could actually save at least $500.00 a year by opting out of the exchanges and paying the penalty. If it’s the difference between their needs and covering someone else’s maternity care, there’s little doubt which avenue the young will choose.
Generation Opportunity is most notable for their creepy Uncle Sam spots pointing out the government’s intrusion into health care. Reports on the conservative group are quick to point out the extremism of their views. They are a “right-wing front group” funded by the Koch Brothers, and therefore inherently suspect and evil.
The press given to Young Invincibles is often complimentary, with terms like “non-partisan” and “grassroots” layered like frosting on cake. Young Invincibles receives financial backing from Deepak Bhargava, a former lobbyist to the corrupt and mostly defunct ACORN, and now the current director of Center for Community Change.
Aaron Smith has been active in liberal politics for the balance of his young years, most recently as a staffer to Democrat Representative Chris Van Hollen. So this double standard of downplaying or ignoring the political leanings of one Millennial group while condemning and spotlighting the leanings of another is downright deceptive. Caveat emptor.
Only time will tell if young people fall in line with the indentured servitude peddled by the government, or continue to steer away for the sake of their own health and future.
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