Catching Up on More Bad Obamacare News

And I have a lot to catch up on; my blogging on this issue has fallen off as a consequence of both real life demands on my time, and sleep-deprivation. Let us examine the latest bulletins, none of which are good.

Bruce Barcott is “[s]eething at a president I helped elect” after having his insurance canceled as a consequence of Obamacare:

I went to a friend and colleague—let’s call him Peter—for advice. He also had his individual medical policy cancelled because of Obamacare. “I’m stuck on the same question—income,” he told me. Peter does a little writing, a little farming, a little this and that to keep the ship afloat. “I got through to the exchange, and the woman there told me to just estimate what my income would be this year.” In other words: Make it up. If he overestimated, he’d be screwing himself out of a subsidy, Peter said. If he underestimated, he’d be hit with a big fat bill. He wasn’t sure he wouldn’t also be accused of fraud. So he called his accountant, who’s also a lawyer.

That only got him so far. At a certain point in the conversation, the accountant/lawyer had to get off the phone. “I have to stop answering your questions,” he told Peter. “I can’t ethically advise you, because honestly I don’t know the right thing to do. Nobody does. There are no answers. Right now it’s a complete [EXPLETIVE DELETED–ed.].”

Last week the frustration of people like Peter and me—Obamacare supporters who lost their current plans—was heard by the White House, which promptly panicked. On Thursday, President Obama announced a policy change that would allow insurance companies like Regence to keep customers like me on the old Wood plan for one more year. To that I say: Hah! Thanks for nothing.

The idea that an insurer like Regence can, or will, spin on a dime and revive our ol’ $587 Woody within the next six weeks is absurd. It skews the market and undermines the entire premise of the Affordable Care Act – which is that by balancing the halt (allowing pre-existing conditions) and the hale (forcing robust young adults to get in the pool), the exchanges will over time produce a system that offers quality health care at a price my family can afford.

Even Mike Kreidler, the deep-blue Democrat who serves as my state’s insurance commissioner, can’t support it. Hours after getting off a conference call with the White House on Thursday, Kreidler announced that the State of Washington would tell President Obama to stuff it. “In the interest of keeping the consumer protections we have enacted and ensuring that we keep health insurance costs down for all consumers, we are staying the course,” Kreidler said. “We will not be allowing insurance companies to extend their policies.”

Cyber security continues to be an issue for HealthCare.gov, which is why we have cyber security experts telling us that perhaps the Obamacare website ought to be shut down. Recall that early on in this entire debacle, the administration assured us that cyber security was not and would not be at issue. Yet another promise broken. More here. And still more here:

Not only is healthcare.gov at risk, it may already have been compromised, a security expert testified before the Senate.

“Hackers are definitely after it,” said David Kennedy, CEO of information security firm TrustedSEC before a House Science, Space, and Technology committee hearing on security concerns surrounding the problematic Healthcare.gov website.

“And if I had to guess, based on what I can see … I would say the website is either hacked already or will be soon.”

Kennedy told FoxNews.com he based this on an analysis revealing a large number of SQL injection attacks against the healthcare.gov website, which are indicative of “a large amount” of hacking attempts.

“Based on the exposures that I identified, and many that I haven’t published due to the criticality of exposures – if a hacker wanted access to the site or sensitive information – they could get it,” he told FoxNews.com.

But fear not! Some people don’t have it so bad:

Members of Congress like to boast that they will have the same health care enrollment experience as constituents struggling with the balky federal website, because the law they wrote forced lawmakers to get coverage from the new insurance exchanges.

That is true. As long as their constituents have access to “in-person support sessions” like the ones being conducted at the Capitol and congressional office buildings by the local exchange and four major insurers. Or can log on to a special Blue Cross and Blue Shield website for members of Congress and use a special toll-free telephone number — a “dedicated congressional health insurance plan assistance line.”

And then there is the fact that lawmakers have a larger menu of “gold plan” insurance choices than most of their constituents have back home.

While millions of Americans have been left to fend for themselves and go through the frustrating experience of trying to navigate the federal exchange, members of Congress and their aides have all sorts of assistance to help them sort through their options and enroll.

Lawmakers and the employees who work in their “official offices” will receive coverage next year through the small-business marketplace of the local insurance exchange, known as D.C. Health Link, which has staff members close at hand for guidance.

“D.C. Health Link set up shop right here in Congress,” said Eleanor Holmes Norton, the delegate to the House from the nation’s capital.

Insurers routinely offer “member services” to enrollees. But on Capitol Hill, the phrase has special meaning, indicating concierge-type services for members of Congress.

If lawmakers have questions about Aetna plan benefits and provider networks, they can call a special phone number that provides “member services for members of Congress and staff.”

On the website run by the Obama administration for 36 states, it is notoriously difficult to see the prices, deductibles and other details of health plans.

It is much easier for members of Congress and their aides to see and compare their options on websites run by the Senate, the House and the local exchange.

I propose a new slogan: “Obamacare: Well, At Least It Treats the Politicians Nicely.” For the rest of us, however, the news remains bad and scary:

The information-technology systems of Obamacare are still anywhere from 30 to 70 percent unfinished, an administration official testified today.

Admittedly, the answer from Henry Chao, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services deputy chief information officer, in a House hearing today isn’t really clear. At one point he seems to indicate 30 to 40 percent of the information-technology system supporting the Obamacare exchanges is unfinished; at another point it sounds more like he’s saying 60 to 70 percent. But the news is stunning either way: HealthCare.gov was launched with some massive parts unfinished, and they are still unfinished.

Your tax dollars paid for this level of incompetence. Because of the problems still associated with the website, WellPoint has stopped advertising its products there. In Oregon, not a single person has been enrolled in the state’s health insurance exchange, despite the political support that Obamacare has in the state. If you manage to sign up for health insurance coverage, you may find that your pets are covered instead.

Thomas Edsall is decidedly not a right-of-center pundit, but he sees that right-of-center views are given legitimacy thanks to the bungling of Obamacare:

The chaos surrounding efforts to activate HealthCare.gov reinforces a key conservative meme: that whatever the test is, government will fail it. Insofar as voters experience their interaction with government as frustrating and unreliable, the brunt of political damage will hit Democrats, both as the party of government and as the party of Obamacare.

Cumulatively, recent developments surrounding the rollout of Obamacare strengthen the most damaging conservative portrayals of liberalism and of big government – that on one hand government is too much a part of our lives, too invasive, too big, too scary, too regulatory, too in your face, and on the other hand it is incompetent, bureaucratic and expropriatory.

[. . .]

Obama and his party’s elected officials not only have the elections of 2014 and 2016 to worry about, but also the future prospects of the liberal agenda writ large, which had appeared to be slowly gaining momentum before the Obamacare portal snafu.

I am not sure that it is right to state that according to conservatives, “whatever the test is, government will fail it.” It may be sufficient to state that in most cases, government will fail tests that are best left for the private sector to pass. To be sure, in his post, Edsall makes it clear that he still believes that government is more a force for good than it is a a source of catastrophe, but even he is compelled to admit that the Obamacare rollout has done tremendous damage to the political prospects of the Democratic party, and to the general tenets of liberalism itself, which tell us that government should be liked and revered as a tool of social progress. Edsall is even forced to quote ordinary citizens who bitterly (and rightly) accuse the Obama administration of having lied to them by claiming that if Americans like their health care plans, they will be able to keep them under Obamacare. And Edsall is also forced to admit that the “fixes” that President Obama suggested for Obamacare will only serve to further undermine the law:

Both legislative and regulatory “fixes” of the canceled policies problem, which would provide a mechanism for insurance companies to continue existing coverage for a year or more, will have complex and adverse consequences.

The industry sets rates three months in advance of each year. The rates for 2014 were set last month. If the industry is forced in 2014 to accept smaller profits, or actual losses, because of a government-mandated requirement to continue current policies, it will attempt to make up for lost revenue in 2015 by raising premiums. Providing temporary relief may create an even more severe problem in October 2014 with an election looming.

[. . .]

Obama has placed himself and his party in what now looks like a zero-sum bind, forcing a choice between inflicting the painful consequences of Obamacare on the electorate now or 11 months from now.

Is it therefore any wonder whatsoever that the Obama administration has announced that it is now delaying the commencement of registration for the second year of coverage until November 15th of next year, which happens to be after the midterm elections so that people won’t be able to find out just how much their premiums have risen before they go to the ballot box? Megan McArdle denounces the idea, and the facts are on her side:

. . . Practically speaking, this is a terrible idea: It leaves millions of consumers only a month to get on the website and select a new plan to cover them by Jan. 1, 2015 (to allow for administrative processing, you generally need to buy next month’s insurance by the 15th of the current month). And substantively, it’s outrageous. The government seems to be making things harder on consumers in order to prevent them from having vital information about their health-care system before they go to the polls on Election Day.

This also tells you something about the state of the exchanges and enrollment. The law’s boosters say this is necessary because the young healthy people probably won’t enroll until late March (the administration has already delayed the cutoff for complying with the mandate to March 31, from Feb. 15). We need to delay open enrollment, they say, so that insurers can factor all those young and healthy people into their premium calculations. Preliminary rates for October generally get filed in the spring, so a month delay will allow them to price insurance with a fuller picture of the total pool.

But if the government thought that insurance buyers were likely to have a happy surprise on Nov. 15, I suspect they’d have found reasons to open up enrollment on Oct. 15, as planned. The events of recent weeks have badly damaged President Barack Obama’s political fortunes, and if the Democrats suffer a big loss in the midterms, Obamacare suddenly looks much less secure. What the administration is mostly expressing is a fond hope that everything will be better by March. Which is, to be sure, entirely possible.

But at this point, is anyone–anyone–betting that “everything will be better by March”? Meanwhile, Tom Maguire has come up with the entirely sensible idea of having the Republican party “set up a very simple website that let people input their state and family status and get back the proposed pricing for plans in their state, pre-subsidy.” That way, people will not be deprived of valuable information regarding pricing for health care before they go to the polls, and the Obama administration will not be able to hide the facts from the American people by delaying registration for purely political purposes.

Speaking of attempts to “fix” Obamacare, Jonathan Adler tells us about yet another Obama administration rules change that is very likely illegal. Which seems to be par for the course, nowadays. Meanwhile, a reminder that Obamacare means you may not be able to go to the doctor or hospital of your choice.

There is more that I could cram into this post, but that is enough for now. I’m sure that there will be plenty of time to give you more bad news later.

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