Three primarily political reasons drove the Obama concession yesterday to allow insurance companies to continue to cover customers whose plans don’t meet ObamaCare standards. And none really had anything to do with doing what was right for the citizenry. He wasn’t really doing anyone any favors except Democrats. He was, as usual, focused solely on limiting political damage.
One reason that drove the concession was the usual – an attempt to start shifting the blame. As Megan McArdle points out:
This may be a near-perfect specimen of that Washington perennial: the nonsolution solution. Insurers are already warning that they can’t simply allow people to stay on their old plans, firstly because all plans have to be approved by state insurers who haven’t signed onto this, and secondly because getting their computer systems to reissue the canceled policies is a hefty programming task that may not be possible to complete by the end of the year. But that’s not the administration’s problem, is it? They can say, “Hey, we changed the rule — if your insurer went ahead and canceled your policy anyway, that’s not our fault!”
Blame shifting is as natural to this administration as breathing is to the rest of us. While they take more heat, they can now pass some of it off to insurers who were simply following the law as the Democrats and the administration had written it. Now they’re the bad guys. As you might imagine, the insurance industry is furious. And insurance regulators? Well, they’re left wondering what is what.
Reason number two for the concession was Congressional Democrat panic. Karl Rove has some thoughts on that:
Mr. Obama’s assertion in the NBC interview that “the majority of folks” whose coverage is canceled will “be able to get better care at the same cost or cheaper” is also likely to be false. The higher premiums that result from ObamaCare’s bells-and-whistles coverage mandates may be offset for some by subsidies, but most people will pay more.
This problem will get worse and poses a dilemma for Mr. Obama and Democrats. A March analysis by Healthpocket.com estimated that less than 2% of individual plans comply with ObamaCare’s mandates. A Nov. 7 study by McClatchy Newspapers suggests as many as 52 million people, including many covered by their employers, could lose their plan.
As the 2014 election approaches, these people will be (a) losing coverage or have lost it already, (b) shopping for new policies, (c) suffering sticker shock over higher premiums and deductibles and (d) wondering why Mr. Obama called their previous policy with doctors they liked “subpar.” Then, next September and October, they’ll be told about premium increases for 2015.
Democrats know this, and that is why they’re pushing so hard for a delay in these cancellations. They’re really not so much interested in a “fix” as they are in enough time to avoid the consequences of the law in 2014. So they’re very willing to grab this totally short-term political “solution” by kicking the can down the road in order to weather the 2014 midterms. By the time this rears its ugly head again in full, they’re hoping the elections will be over.
Again, this isn’t about people losing coverage. This is about Democrats losing office.
And finally the third reason was a real need to get out in front of the Upton bill in the House. Kimberley Strassel covers that:
The primary purpose of the White House “fix” was to get out ahead of the planned Friday vote on Michigan Republican Fred Upton’s “Keep Your Health Plan Act.” The stage was set for dozens of Democrats to join with the GOP for passage—potentially creating a veto-proof majority, and putting enormous pressure on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to follow suit.
The White House couldn’t risk such a bipartisan rebuke. Moreover, the Upton bill—while it lacks those GOP joy words of “delay” or “repeal”—poses a threat, since it would allow insurers to continue providing non-ObamaCare policies to any American who wants one. Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu‘s version of the bill would in fact (unconstitutionally) order insurers to offer the plans in perpetuity. Both bills undermine the law’s central goal of forcing healthy people into costly ObamaCare exchange plans that subsidize the sick.
The president’s “fix” is designed to limit such grandfathering, but that’s why it is of dubious political help to Democrats. Within minutes of Mr. Obama’s announcement, several Democratic senators, including North Carolina’s Kay Hagan —whose poll numbers have plummeted in advance of her 2014 re-election bid—announced that they remain in favor of Landrieu-style legislation.
But it’s not going to happen. Obama has already said he’d veto the Upton legislation. There’s a message there for Mary Landrieu as well.
This was all about Barack Obama, as usual. It is a result of raw political calculation – his only seeming area of competence. He’s now managed a political solution which serves him about as well as any solution can in the mess he and his administration have made of this atrocious law. He’s found someone else to shift the blame too, he’s quieted Democrats, at least for the moment and he’s politically pre-empted a GOP move that would have seriously damaged his signature legislation and dumped his leadership and credibility ratings even lower.
For him, this is about as good as it gets.
Gallup, fresh of noting that President Obama’s trustworthiness and decisiveness have been found wanting, says the Affordable Care Act, which has never been popular, is now even more unpopular:
Americans’ views of the 2010 healthcare law have worsened in recent weeks, with 40% approving and 55% disapproving of it. For most of the past year, Americans have been divided on the law, usually tilting slightly toward disapproval. The now 15-percentage-point gap between disapproval and approval is the largest Gallup has measured in the past year.
That 15% gap shows a decided shift in popular opinion to the negative about the law. And say what Democrats might about running on this next election, they know as well as anyone that a 15 percent shift on any one issue is significant. Especially an issue to which they are the sole reason for its existence and therefore the sole party to blame.
The top three reasons given for disapproval were, “Government interference/Forcing people to do things” at 37%, “Increases costs/Makes healthcare less affordable” at 21% and 11% disapproved because they’d lost their insurance.
Of the three reasons, all of which are significant, perhaps the last one is the most significant. These are people who are likely to have nothing good to say about the law or the architects of the law. And because it effects them personally, may take political action (i.e. vote) to satisfy their anger. It may not be the most positive motivation in the world, but it can certainly be devastatingly effective.
The fact that the President is attempting to unilaterally thwart the provisions of his own law to save his and his party’s collective hides, notwithstanding, this is probably going to get worse before it gets better. Expect the insurance industry to consider lawsuits to kill the requirements. And there will likely be other legal challenges. Of course that will then let the White House do its favorite thing to do and attack and demonize them. But the only reason this predicament exists is a result of the Democratic party’s agenda.
That more negative evaluation may not have as much to do with the content of the law as the implementation of it, in particular how that squares with the president’s earlier characterization of how the law would work.
Some Democratic members of Congress, as well as former President Bill Clinton, are urging the president to support legislation that would rewrite portions of the law to allow Americans to keep their insurance plan if they are being dropped from it, as a way to honor his pledge. At this point, it is not clear whether the president will seriously consider that, or attempt to adjust how the law is administered without rewriting pieces of it.
Additionally, many members of Congress from both parties are asking the administration to extend the deadline by a year for Americans to get health insurance before facing a fine, given the ongoing technical issues with the exchange websites, which are still being fixed. The White House recently extended the deadline by six weeks.
How the administration handles these challenges to the implementation of the law, plus any new ones that emerge in the coming months, could be critical in determining the trajectory of the “disapprove” line in Gallup’s trend chart for the healthcare law.
Obviously this was written before the President’s announcement today. Politically it appears to be panic-city at the White House and among the Democrats. When you have Howard Dean – Howard Dean for heaven sake – questioning the legality of the president’s announcement today, you know there’s trouble in Democrat-land. How long it will last is anyone’s guess at this point, but I think it is safe to say, we’re nowhere near the end of this debacle.
Andrew Kohut thinks so:
Tucked away in recent polls—which have documented the extraordinary anger directed at the Republican Party during the shutdown crisis—are measures of clear disappointment with the Democratic Party. The disappointment is substantial, and it raises big questions about the 2014 midterms.
The Republican Party’s favorable ratings fell substantially in most every national survey that uses this yard stick, declining to 28% in the Gallup poll at one point. Yet when the GOP was matched up against the Democrats on key political measures, it did not look so bad.
A mid-October Pew Research national poll found that a plurality regard the Republicans as “better able to deal with the economy” than the Democrats (44%-37%). Independents favored the GOP on the economy by a whopping 46%-30% margin in that survey.
The Republicans took most of the blame for the shutdown, yet a growing number see the GOP as “better able to manage the government.” In December 2012, the Democratic Party held a 45%-36% advantage over the GOP as the party Americans viewed as better able to manage the government. By Oct. 15—in the midst of the shutdown and debt crisis—the Democratic lead on this measure disappeared: 42% said the Republican Party is better able to manage the federal government, compared with 39% who named the Democrats.
An early read of voter preferences for the House in 2014 by the Pew Research Center in mid-October had the Democrats with a six-point edge: 49% to 43% among registered voters. In historical terms, this is a relatively modest margin. Six points is the same lead the Democrats had in 2009, a lead that steadily eroded in 2010. The GOP picked up six Senate seats and 63 House seats in that year’s midterm.
The anger over the government shut-down is fading. But at the moment, ObamaCare is the gift that keeps on giving. And, of course, there’s the struggling economy. Neither the economy nor ObamaCare promise to fade into obscurity before the mid-term elections next year. One indicator of how deep the looming trouble is for Democrats can be found in the numbers associated with independent voters:
One clear troubling sign for the Democrats at this early stage is independent voters, who decide most elections. They are evenly divided, according to Pew’s mid-October survey: 43% say that “if the elections for Congress were being held today,” they would vote for the Republican candidate in their district, 43% say they would vote for the Democratic candidate.
The reason there’s hope for good results in 2014 for Republicans rests with the two issues nagging Democrats. Healthcare and the economy. Both are very personal issues, i.e. they are issues that effect all voters. They’re not some issue which voters simply have an opinion about. Both effect their lives, sometimes in dramatic fashion. And those are the very issues Republicans, if they’re smart, will focus on:
The economy and ObamaCare’s inauspicious debut are likely the most powerful drags on the president and in turn on his party. In a September Pew survey, 63% of Americans say the nation’s economic system is no more secure today than it was before the 2008 market crash.
A majority of Americans say their household incomes and jobs still have not recovered from the great recession. But pluralities think that government’s policies have helped large banks, corporations and the rich more than the middle-class, the poor or small businesses.
So maybe it isn’t as bleak for Republicans as some pundits would like to believe. That said, we’ve all watched the GOP manage to screw up all sorts of issues in the past. 2014 is going to take a focused effort to lay out those 2 issues for the pubic in clear fashion and with clear and appealing alternatives.
I’ll be interested to see if they can actually do that.
If you’re wondering why, please remember that whenever the Democrats or the White House get in trouble, step one of escaping that trouble is to use the bully pulpit to blame someone else. Oh, and there’s the fact that in the past, attacking the health insurance companies seemed to have worked:
The approach hasn’t sat well with some Democratic allies, who are publicly and privately urging the White House to ramp up its attacks on insurers, arguing that the the tactic shored up support as they struggled to push the bill through Congress. A group of Democratic strategists pressed senior administration officials during a conference call last week.
They’d like a repeat of 2009-10, when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called insurers “the villains,” Obama blasted their willingness to “bend the truth or break it,” and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius accused them of banking excessive profits.
“When Obamacare got into trouble, we juxtaposed our message against the insurance companies, which are very unpopular,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who has advised her 2014 clients, including Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, to go after insurers. “We should be messaging against the insurance companies this time as well. This is not good faith. If there is a snowstorm, the insurance companies are blaming it on Obamacare.”
But there’s a problem. With the horrific rollout of ObamaCare, the White House needs the support of the industry they demonized for so long. They need the “villains”.
This time around, Obama needs the industry to make Obamacare work.
His restrained response over the past week shows just how much the dynamic between Obama and the insurance companies has shifted since the law passed — and how their fates have become intertwined. The health care law expands coverage to millions of Americans by sending them into the private insurance market armed with tax subsidies, forcing the president and his former nemeses into an uneasy partnership that’s only beginning to face strains.
“Their interests are aligned with our interests in terms of wanting to enroll targeted populations,” a senior White House official said Wednesday. “It is not that we will agree with everything now either, but I would say for some time now there has been a collaboration because of that mutual interest.”
The uneasy truce will likely exist until such a time as it is politically expedient for the White House to blame all of ACA’s ills on someone else — namely health insurance providers (trying to blame Republicans seems to have had little traction). But they can’t afford to do that at the moment. However, while a full frontal assault on the industry may not be in the offing, the White House is still inclined to snipe:
Senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett angered insurers when she posted on Twitter that it was a “fact” that “nothing in Obamacare forces people out of their health plans.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney has been critical of insurance companies during his daily briefings, calling the individual market an under-regulated “Wild West.” But he’s tried to strike a balance, casting insurers as engaged in bad practices before the new health care law brought them into line.
Obama did the same during a health care speech Friday in Boston.
“Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad apple insurers had free rein every single year to limit the care that you received or used minor pre-existing conditions to jack up your premiums or bill you into bankruptcy,” Obama said.
Ah, the life of a failed community organizer and his posse. Help create a monstrosity out of whole cloth and then, when it performs as poorly as critics said it would, find a “villain” and blame them. Except right now you need the villain. Meanwhile your party is raising the volume on its protests about the awful rollout and its effect on their chances for re-election next year.
What to do. What to do.
This on-line debacle that’s so embarrassed the Democrats and the Obama administration? It is likely the result of blatant cronyism. The inept hiring the incompetent:
A tech firm linked to a campaign-donor crony of President Obama not only got the job to help build the federal health-insurance Web site — but also is getting paid to fix it.
Anthony Welters, a top campaign bundler for Obama and frequent White House guest, is the executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group, which owns the software company now at the center of the ObamaCare Web-site fiasco.
UnitedHealth Group subsidiary Quality Software Services Inc. (QSSI), which built the data hub for the ObamaCare system, has been named the new general contractor in charge of repairing the glitch-plagued HealthCare.gov.
Welters and his wife, Beatrice, have shoveled piles of cash into Obama’s campaign coffers and apparently reaped the rewards.
Beatrice Welters bundled donations totaling between $200,000 and $500,000 for Obama’s campaign during the 2008 election cycle, according to campaign- finance data compiled by Center for Responsive Politics.
Well, how sweet is that? Give a little, get a lot! And while this certainly isn’t the first administration or political party to practice cronyism, it certainly is the most open about it. One would almost think they believe that they are entitled. A spoils system of sorts.
UnitedHealth Group is one of the largest health-insurance companies in the country and spent millions lobbying for ObamaCare.
The insurance giant’s purchase of QSSI in 2012 raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill, but the tech firm nevertheless kept the job of building the data hub for the ObamaCare Web site where consumers buy the new mandatory health- insurance plans.
QSSI has been paid an estimated $150 million so far, but officials couldn’t say how much more the company might collect on the repair contract.
Whatever happened to the belief that there should be a distance between politics and business? Once, it was a point of integrity to ensure there was no shadow or hint of a possible conflict of interest?
Now? Just line up at the trough, those that gave the most get the most. As for the work? Just like every other government program (except health care), they’ll be glad to overpay for shoddy work.
And here we are.
“I’m extraordinarily frustrated,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) after top Obama-administration officials gave Senate Democrats a private briefing on the state of the Web-site repairs.
He said they were losing confidence the site could be quickly fixed.
“I don’t think there’s confidence by anyone in the room. This is more of a show-me moment,” said Merkley.
I don’t think there’s confidence by anyone in the country – except, of course, the “true believers”.
Or so it seems.
Tell me, if a senior executive of any corporation had rolled out a product that was as bad as the ObamaCare website and had caused as much embarrassment and grief for the corporation as this roll out has produced for this administration, would they likely still be employed by the corporation?
Oh, I’m sure you can think of some “lifeboat” instance where it might happen, but for the most part, they’d have been sent packing immediately after the depth of their non-performance was ascertained.
But not in this government. I’m of the opinion that Kathleen Sebelius must have Obama’s college transcripts or something to still be employed. That said, pressure for her ouster continues to build:
It’s Kathleen Sebelius’s turn now. On the Hill, they’re calling for her resignation and tossing around words like “subpoena.” Pundits are merrily debating her future. (She’s toast! Or is Obama too loyal to fire her so soon?) Her interviews, more closely parsed than usual, seem wobbly. Though never a colorful presence on the political scene, she’s suddenly a late-night TV punch line.
And on Wednesday morning, the embattled secretary of health and human services will submit to a quintessential station of the Washington deathwatch — testifying before a congressional committee — to discuss her agency’s failings in the botched rollout of the federal health-insurance Web site.
Granted, this is only part of the on-going debacle that is the Affordable Care Act, aka “ObamaCare”. And while it will, in years to come, be cited as the perfect example of ineptitude coupled with incompetence, it isn’t the big problem right now. The big problem, as pointed out yesterday, is the country was purposely lied too in order to garner enough support to push this monstrosity through Congress and make it law.
Lied too. Point blank and with a smile. Jonah Goldberg shares my opinion of Obama’s lie and goes a century or two more:
And that lie looks like the biggest lie about domestic policy ever uttered by a U.S. president.
Ever. For those of you who want to cite Clinton, Nixon or some other president, Goldberg points out:
The most famous presidential lies have to do with misconduct (Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook” or Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations”) or war. Woodrow Wilson campaigned on the slogan “He kept us out of war” and then plunged us into a calamitous war. Franklin D. Roosevelt made a similar vow: “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.”
Roosevelt knew he was making false promises. He explained to an aide: “If someone attacks us, it isn’t a foreign war, is it?” When his own son questioned his honesty, FDR replied: “If I don’t say I hate war, then people are going to think I don’t hate war. . . . If I don’t say I won’t send our sons to fight on foreign battlefields, then people will think I want to send them. . . . So you play the game the way it has been played over the years, and you play to win.”
Is that the case with Obama? Lying in order to pass some cherished legislation which won’t at all do what you promise it will do is “the game” and in politics, justifies “playing to win”?
Or is it, much more simply, damn the truth, the ends justify the means?
Yeah, that’s how I see it too.
As for accountability for the Obama lie, don’t hold your breath. Sebelius may end up biting the bullet. But the buck won’t even slow down at Obama’s desk.
16 million people are now receiving letters from their carriers saying they are losing their current coverage and must re-enroll in order to avoid a break in coverage and comply with the new health law’s benefit mandates––the vast majority by January 1.
And how many have managed to enroll? Well it appears that number is in the thousands, and as we mentioned on the podcast last night, most of those are enrolling in Medicaid.
Meanwhile, the failed law continues to impact the lives of fellow citizens negatively.
Hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans opened the mail last week to find their health insurance plan would no longer exist in 2014 because it does not cover all the essential benefits required by the Affordable Care Act. … The changes will impact more than 800,000 people in New Jersey who purchase insurance on the individual and small-employer markets, according to Ward Sanders, president of the New Jersey Association of Health Plans.
Florida Blue is dropping 300,000 customers whose policies the health insurer says aren’t sufficiently comprehensive under the health care overhaul. The Jacksonville-based insurance company said Thursday that the 300,000 policyholders have plans that don’t include all of the 10 categories of benefits required under the Affordable Care Act.
Kaiser Permanente in California has sent notices to 160,000 people – about half of its individual business in the state. … Blue Shield of California sent roughly 119,000 cancellation notices out in mid-September, about 60 percent of its individual business.
CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield is being forced to cancel plans that currently cover 76,000 individuals in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., due to changes made by President Obama’s health care law, the company told the Washington Examiner today. That represents more than 40 percent of the 177,000 individuals covered by CareFirst in those states.
Independence Blue Cross is canceling coverage for 24,000 members in the Philadelphia region because their insurance plans don’t comply with new rules from the Affordable Care Act, Newsworks reported.
Insurer Highmark in Pittsburgh is dropping about 20 percent of its individual market customers, while Independence Blue Cross, the major insurer in Philadelphia, is dropping about 45 percent.
And these are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. 16 million dumped after they were promised what?
“If you like your current plan, you will be able to keep it. Let me repeat that: if you like your plan, you’ll be able to keep it.”
Because, you remember, that was a MAJOR FEATURE of ObamaCare:
“In fact, one of our core principles is that if you like the health care you have, you can keep it.” (Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.8642, 8/3/09)
Ah yes, the lying liars that brought us the biggest lie of the 21st century to date.
“All we’ve been hearing the last three years is if you like your policy you can keep it… I’m infuriated because I was lied to.”
How’s it feel to have been “had” this badly?
As a designed program it is a disaster. Why? Because it does few if any of the things it was supposed to do (remember: “if you like your insurance and want to keep it?”). Now the New York Times – a rah, rah supporter of the law – has found another “design flaw”:
As technical failures bedevil the rollout of President Obama’s health care law, evidence is emerging that one of the program’s loftiest goals — to encourage competition among insurers in an effort to keep costs low — is falling short for many rural Americans.
While competition is intense in many populous regions, rural areas and small towns have far fewer carriers offering plans in the law’s online exchanges. Those places, many of them poor, are being asked to choose from some of the highest-priced plans in the 34 states where the federal government is running the health insurance marketplaces, a review by The New York Times has found.
You have to chuckle a bit at the abject ignorance the Times often displays as evidenced by the fact that they don’t seem to understand that price controls/setting isn’t going to foster much competition among anyone. And, when government decides what each policy must contain, they’re not going to be cheap. Oh they may seem relatively cheap, but then there are those damnable deductibles, aren’t there?
Of the roughly 2,500 counties served by the federal exchanges, more than half, or 58 percent, have plans offered by just one or two insurance carriers, according to an analysis by The Times of county-level data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services. In about 530 counties, only a single insurer is participating.
The analysis suggests that the ambitions of the Affordable Care Act to increase competition have unfolded unevenly, at least in the early going, and have not addressed many of the factors that contribute to high prices. Insurance companies are reluctant to enter challenging new markets, experts say, because medical costs are high, dominant insurers are difficult to unseat, and powerful hospital systems resist efforts to lower rates.
“There’s nothing in the structure of the Affordable Care Act which really deals with that problem,” said John Holahan, a fellow at the Urban Institute, who noted that many factors determine costs in a given market. “I think that all else being equal, premiums will clearly be higher when there’s not that competition.”
The Obama administration has said 95 percent of Americans live in areas where there are at least two insurers in the exchanges. But many experts say two might not be enough to create competition that would help lower prices.
What was that word again? Oh yeah, “incentive”. What “incentive” is there for an insurer to enter a market simply to lower prices so no one can survive? Yeah, probably not much. And in rural areas where population is thin in comparison to urban areas, the cost of doing business may preclude the entrance of a third carrier because there’s no positive incentive to do so. I.e. they don’t see profit being higher than the cost of doing business. Imagine that?
But hey, it’s the law and law is magic, you know. It declares something will be so and it must be so. Right?
Well, that’s the “thinking” behind this law, such that it is … the law of the underwear gnomes come to life.
Everything I read about this debacle that is ObamaCare’s launch is summed up pretty well in this paragraph:
In an era where Google is making self-driving cars and Amazon offers next-day delivery for just about anything, the White House plunged ahead with a system it knew to be defective and is relying on the technology of the 19th century as the fall-back. Five days before the exchanges launched, the Health and Human Services Department increased the Virginia information technology company Serco’s $114 million contract by $87 million—to help process paper applications. Are contingency plans in place to sign up via telegraph?
Pitiful doesn’t begin to describe the effort. Incompetent is too tame to encompass the leadership. Inept would be a compliment if describing the launch.
And yet we think these people, the people who designed and put this monstrosity together and thought it good enough to launch, can be trusted with our health care.
It makes one wonder about the collective intelligence of the citizenry.
P.S. Thought you’d like to know that in the new liberal conventional wisdom, “death panels” are now a “good thing”, especially if the state has final say.
Gee, never saw that coming.
BTW, can anyone guess the greatest lie of the 21st Century to date?
“If you like your insurance and want to keep it, you can.”
How bad is it? Well, here’s a clip of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. In it, the group isn’t even polite about it – they simply point out that the administration is now engaged in lying about it’s rollout and the numbers involved. Even they can’t find it in themselves to prevaricate about what’s been going on. It’s a disaster and even the left can see that:
Usually, when something is so bad that it can’t be denied, even the left will finally admit it. Here’s that point. Two years after it was passed, two years of being able to enlist the help of world class contractors and putting a state-of-the art system together, what have we got?
The Edsel of systems. In fact, that’s not fair to Edsel. It at least ran.
Meanwhile, Kathleen Sebelius continues to cash her paychecks.