Just a few fisks about the lies and anti-constitutionalism in Obama’s ukase this morning. As a preliminary to this, let me just say that the Affordable Care Act, i.e., the actual law that Congress passed, requires the health care exchange and the new policies to go into effect as of January 1, 2014. That’s not a choice, that’s a mandate. And now, let me cherry pick my way through Obama’s abysmal confession of failure, which he augments with arbitrary, capricious, and tyrannical dictates against ostensibly “free market” insurance companies:
Switching gears, it has now been six weeks since the Affordable Care Act’s new marketplaces opened for business. I think it’s fair to say that the rollout has been rough so far, and I think everybody understands that I’m not happy about the fact that the rollout has been, you know, wrought with a whole range of problems that I’ve been deeply concerned about.
I don’t think anybody is going to confuse “I’m not happy about” or “I’ve been deeply concerned about” with “The buck stops here.” Obama — America’s chief executive officer — has once again cast himself as a passive, victimized spectator in his own administration.
But today, I want to talk about what we know after these first few weeks and what we’re doing to implement and improve the law. Yesterday, the White House announced that in the first month, more than a hundred thousand Americans successfully enrolled in new insurance plans. Is that as high a number as we’d like? Absolutely not. But it does mean that people want affordable health care.
That’s an interesting obfuscation. The fact is that this “more than a hundred thousand” number includes a handful of state exchange enrollees, in addition to the 26,000 or so federal enrollees; that it jumbles people who actually bought insurance with people who just put a policy in their shopping cart; and that it fails to provide necessary information about subsidizers versus subsidizees in the exchange. I believe this number is it’s also a mere 5%, or maybe less, of the necessary number of enrollees needed by this date to make the system function.
The problems of the website have prevented too many Americans from completing the enrollment process, and that’s on us, not on them. But there’s no question that there’s real demand for quality, affordable health insurance. In the first month, nearly a million people successfully completed an application for themselves or their families.
Those applications represent more than 1.5 million people. Of those 1.5 million people, 106,000 of them have successfully signed up to get covered.
You’ve got to admire the chutzpah that sees Obama boast about something that is, even on his own terms, a less than 10% success rate. And that’s just in Obama’s universe. As noted above, the exchanges have had a success rate far lower than 10%. Oh, and isn’t it nice the way Obama bravely acknowledges that it’s “on us, not on them [the citizens]” that the enrollment rates are so pathetic? Also, have you noticed that, when there’s a success, as with Osama bin Laden’s killing, Obama emits the word “I” with the same high-pitched, repeating squeal one hears when an overstuffed whoopee cushion yields to someone’s voluminous bottom, but that the “I’s” disappear entirely (the whoopee cushion is pre-flattened) when Obama is at fault?
Another 396,000 have the ability to gain access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. That’s been less reported on, but it shouldn’t be. You know, Americans who are having a difficult time, who are poor, many of them working, may have a disability, they’re Americans like everybody else. And the fact that they are now able to get insurance is going to be critically important. Later today I’ll be in Ohio, where Governor Kasich, a Republican, has expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and as many as 275,000 Ohioans will ultimately be better off because of it. And if every governor followed suit, another 5.4 million Americans could gain access to health care next year.
Actually, in the conservative press the Medicaid enrollments have been heavily reported, because they take us one step further to bankrupting the system. Oh, and there’s the little problem of Medicaid outcomes being worse than outcomes for the entirely non-insured. Put another way, all that Obamacare has succeeded into doing so far is pushing hundreds of thousands of Americans onto a certain pathway to the worst possible medical outcomes.
So bottom line is in just one month, despite all the problems that we’ve seen with the website, more than 500,000 Americans could know the security of health care by January 1st, many of them for the first time in their lives. And that’s life-changing, and it’s significant.
See my comment about Medicaid, above, and my comment about the fact that the administration is hiding the ball when it comes to knowing which numbers refer to people with actual plans and which refer to people with plans in their shopping carts. Moreover, if the numbers are such that there’s a death spiral at work, that statement is actually another “asterisk” sentence from Obama. The real sentence should read: “more than 500,000 Americans could know the security of health care by January 1st,* *while more than 300 million Americans should be prepared to know the insecurity of a completely destroyed healthcare system by July 1st.”
That still leaves about 1 million Americans who successfully made it through the website and now qualify to buy insurance but haven’t picked a plan yet. And there’s no question that if the website were working as it’s supposed to, that number would be much higher of people who’ve actually enrolled.
What can one say? That’s Shamwow! talk, unrelated to reality. If wishes were horses than beggars would ride.
So that’s problem number one, making sure that the website works the way it’s supposed to. It’s gotten a lot better over the last few weeks than it was on the first day, but we’re working 24/7 to get it working for the vast majority of Americans in a smooth, consistent way.
As Rush Limbaugh said, why in the world should we believe that statement? Obama has lied to us every step of the way. Also, as is typical in tyrannies, his acolytes have lied to him and he’s lied to himself. Otherwise, Obama would have leapt at the Cruz/Lee bloc’s demand that the government delay Obamacare’s implementation.
The other problem that has received a lot of attention concerns Americans who’ve received letters from their insurers that they may be losing the plans they bought in the old individual market, often because they no longer meet the law’s requirements to cover basic benefits like prescription drugs or doctor’s visits.
Funnily enough, amidst all the lies, and spinning, and puffery, that sentence offended me most: “Americans who’ve received letters from their insurers that they may be losing the plans.” May lose their plans? May!? This is denial so overwhelming that it leaves me sputtering incoherently. They already have lost their plans. That’s why you, Mr. President, are standing there lying and spinning and puffing. They’ve already lost their plans and you’re now trying desperately to save yourself and your party. May? He should be impeached just for that.
Now, as I indicated earlier, I completely get how upsetting this can be for a lot of Americans, particularly after assurances they heard from me that if they had a plan that they liked they could keep it. And to those Americans, I hear you loud and clear. I said that I would do everything we can to fix this problem. And today I’m offering an idea that will help do it.
Not assurances, Barry-me-boy, promises. Promises made 37 times on 37 different occasions in front of 37 different audiences. Complete with the Shamwow! “I guarantee it.” At least Obama didn’t go the New York Times route and call his lies “incorrect promises.”
Already people who have plans that pre-date the Affordable Care Act can keep those plans if they haven’t changed. That was already in the law. That’s what’s called a grandfather clause that was included in the law. Today we’re going to extend that principle both to people whose plans have changed since the law took effect and to people who bought plans since the law took effect.
Another Shamwow! moment. Nobody believed Ron Popiel (although some of his stuff was really cool), and it remains to be seen whether anyone will believe Obama’s “but wait, there’s more!” spiel. The law was written to render the grandfather clause meaningless. It exists, but only symbolically.
So state insurance commissioners still have the power to decide what plans can and can’t be sold in their states, but the bottom line is insurers can extend current plans that would otherwise be cancelled into 2014. And Americans whose plans have been cancelled can choose to re-enroll in the same kind of plan.
We’re also requiring insurers to extend current plans to inform their customers about two things: One, that protections — what protections these renewed plans don’t include. Number two, that the marketplace offers new options with better coverage and tax credits that might help you bring down the cost.
As Rush says, “No, the insurers cannot do this. The plans are gone.” Huge insurance companies can’t just rotate stock on their shelves. It takes months (or even years) of financial calculations, actuarial data, and negotiations with hospitals and doctors to come up with plans. It’s a huge corporate burden, even in a computer era, to knock millions of people off the books. The past cannot be undone, but with this disingenuous statement, Obama has effectively announced, if the insurers cannot undo the damage I’ve done to them, it’s all their fault.
Moreover, Obama has also instructed the insurance companies to violate the law. The law set a deadline of January 1, 2014. The insurance companies, to their cost, complied with it, and now Obama is saying “Never mind!” This is arbitrary and capricious tyranny. There’s no other word for it. It also puts the lie to the Democrat mantra for the past several months, a mantra that increased in volume and frequency during the shutdown: “The law is the law. How dare anybody try to circumvent the law. It’s the law.”
So if your received one of these letters I’d encourage you to take a look at the marketplace. Even if the website isn’t working as smoothly as it should be for everybody yet, the plan comparison tool that lets you browse cost for new plans near you is working just fine.
All of the above fakery cannot hide the truth, which Obama slipped through the back door in those two sentences. Obama has just admitted that, if your policy is already cancelled (i.e., if you got your cancellation letter before he made this speech), you remain screwed, despite his dictatorial demand that insurers stop abiding by his eponymous law.
Now, this fix won’t solve every problem for every person, but it’s going to help a lot of people. Doing more will require work with Congress. And I’ve said from the beginning that I’m willing to work with Democrats and Republicans to fix problems as they arise. This is an example of what I was talking about. We can always make this law work better.
It will help a lot of people if you believe that sticking a small, dirty Band-Aid over a large, festering sore will halt the poison from spreading and turning the entire body septic. So yeah, if that’s your definition of “help,” Obama’s absolutely right. In the real world, some things can’t be fixed. They are inherently flawed.
It is important to understand, though, that the old individual market was not working well. And it’s important that we don’t pretend that somehow that’s a place worth going back to. Too often it works fine as long as you stay healthy. It doesn’t work well when you’re sick. So year after year, Americans were routinely exposed to financial ruin or denied coverage due to minor pre-existing conditions or dropped from coverage altogether even if they’ve paid their premiums on time. That’s one of the reasons we pursued this reform in the first place.
Campaign speech blah-blah. At this point, people are probably thinking, the old system might not have worked well, but it worked. What we have now is a disaster, predicated on a fraud.
Indeed, the rest of Obama’s Shamwow! commercial is blah-blah, which I won’t address here. Obama doesn’t seem to have realized that the campaign train has left the station on this one. Media cover on his lies works only as long as the vast majority of people who hear those lies are not personally affected. Once the president has to say to the majority of American people, “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”, the jig is up and the con is over.
I’m with Jonah Goldberg on this one. While I’m terribly sorry that Obamacare opponents have been swept into this disaster, I am utterly gleeful when I see the Democrat political rats scrambling and when I hear the ordinary-Progressive-in-the-street bemoaning his non-insured fate or the fact that his rates and deductibles have gone up. I have no compassion for those credulous, ideologically blind idiots. They deserve everything they’re getting and much, much worse. If I could only insulate innocent conservatives from this spreading train wreck, my joy would be complete.
UPDATE: The insurance industry is not pleased. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has issued a statement that enlarges upon the problems I expressed with His Imperial Majesty’s diktat:
For three years, state insurance regulators have been working to adapt to the Affordable Care Act in a way that best meets the needs of consumers in each state. We have been particularly concerned about the way the reforms would impact premiums, the solvency of insurance companies, and the overall health of the marketplace. The NAIC has been clear from the beginning that allowing insurers to have different rules for different policies would be detrimental to the overall market and result in higher premiums.
We have expressed these concerns with the Administration and are concerned by the President’s announcement today that the federal government would use its “enforcement discretion” to delay enforcement of the ACA’s market reforms in 2014 for plans that are currently in effect. This decision continues different rules for different policies and threatens to undermine the new market, and may lead to higher premiums and market disruptions in 2014 and beyond.
In addition, it is unclear how, as a practical matter, the changes proposed today by the President can be put into effect. In many states, cancellation notices have already gone out to policyholders and rates and plans have already been approved for 2014. Changing the rules through administrative action at this late date creates uncertainty and may not address the underlying issues. We look forward to learning more details of this policy change and about how the administration proposes that regulators and insurers make this work for all consumers.
The insurers and most in the medical establishment were on board with Obamacare, because they thought it would give them a vast new customer base that was forced to buy an unwanted product because of federal law. I do not feel sorry for the executives looking at their pensions vanish, or at soon-to-be jobless employees who have been stalwart Democrat supporters. As I’ve mentioned before, my sense of sadness and regret is reserved only for those who were dragged into this kicking and screaming. So to the extent the insurance companies’ pain causes conservative or libertarian employees to lose their jobs, or has a profound affect on the economy, causing everyone to suffer, that makes me sad. Otherwise, you guys had it coming too.
Also, some more practical info from health insurance guru Bob Laszewski.
UPDATE 2: Ace has more info from insurance companies regarding the practical impossibility of Obama’s demand.