Saturday, October 26, 2013

ObamaCare: After Web Site Fix the Train Wreck Will Continue, Perhaps Accelerate

This isn't just about a bad web site. It's about a bad idea and can only get worse!

A friend of mine who voted for Obama told me months ago that most of the American public didn't care about the Benghazi attack that left four Americans, including our Ambassador dead in Libya over a year ago. According to him the attack was something that happened a long way away from the lives of most Americans. It was bad, but it didn't effect their lives.

The ObamaCare disaster is different. Millions of Americans are getting letters in the mail telling them that the health insurance they've had for years no longer mets the requirements of ObamaCare. Their options are limited to signing up for plans that cost more and have much higher deductibles. They heard Obama's repeated promise "if you like your plan you can keep it. Period!" and feel betrayed. I've posted excerpts from many of these stories and no doubt will continue to do so.

This isn't just something happening to a few Americans or in an isolated pocket of society, it's widespread with special pain for middle class families that Obama repeatedly claims to care most about. Peggy Noonan describes the scope of the political problem for Obama this way:
We should not lose The Headline in the day-to-day headlines. This is big history, not small. The ObamaCare rollout is a disaster for the White House, not a problem or a challenge or an embarrassment, not a gaffe or a bad few weeks. It is a political disaster, and the only question is whether it is partially recoverable, meaning the system can be made to work in a generally satisfactory way in the next few weeks. But—it has to be repeated—they had 3½ years after passage of the Affordable Care Act to make the program into something the American people could register for and feel they were benefiting from. Three and a half years! They had a long-declared start date: It would all go live Oct. 1, 2013, and everyone in the government, every contractor and consultant, knew it.

The president put the meaning of his presidency into the program—it informally carries his name, it is his brand. It was unveiled with great fanfare, and it didn't work. For almost anybody. Crashed systems, frozen screens, phone registration that prompted you back to the site that sent you to the 800 number, like a high-tech Möbius strip.
And there is the enduring mystery of why the president, who in his career has attempted to persuade the American people to have greater faith in and reliance on the federal government's ability to help, continues to go forward with an astounding lack of interest in the reputation of government.

He talks but he doesn't implement, never makes it work. He allows the IRS under his watch to be humiliated by scandal, waste, ill judgements prompted by ideological assumptions. He allows his signature program, the one that will make his name in the history books, to debut in failure. In response he says bland, rounded words that leave you wondering what just got said.
Peggy goes on to ask whether Sebelius and top people at the Department of Health and Human Services knew about the web site's problems. If so, did they tell the White House? And if top officials knew about this train wreck waiting to happen why did they let the plan go forward? Was that a political decision? Who made it? There's another point here too. Was Obama just too busy campaigning and bashing Republicans to actually manage this key program?

In the Washington Post Ezra Klein has a very critical and detailed column about the problems with the web site, the press reporting and future problems for ObamaCare. Klein is fair minded but certainly from the left. For a liberal Administration, if you've lost Klein, you are in trouble.
Sorry liberals, Obamacare’s problems go much deeper than the Web site
By Ezra Klein, Published: October 25
Washington Post

There's been a rash of commentary from some on the left who've decided that the real problem with Obamacare isn't the crippling technological issues that have made it impossible for almost anyone to enroll in the federally run health-insurance exchanges but the media's coverage of those problems.

It's not the crime, it's the lack of a cover-up.
A failure in the press coverage of the health-care exchange's rocky launch has been in allowing people to believe that the problem is a glitchy Web site. This is a failure of language: "The Web site" has become a confusing stand-in phrase for any problem relating to the law's underlying infrastructure. No one has a very good word to describe everything that infrastructure encompasses.

In brick-and-mortar terms, it's the road that leads to the store, the store itself, the payment systems between the store and the government and the manufacturers, the computer system the manufacturers use to fill the orders, the trucks that carry the the product back to the store, the loading dock where the customers pick up the products, and so on. It's the problems in that infrastructure -- indeed, much more than "just a Web site" -- that pose such deep problems for the law.
To summarize the danger as Klein sees it: even when the web site is fixed and people are able to log on many who are healthy and don't especially need insurance will rebel at premiums and deductibles that are higher than their current plans and opt to wait. If they get sick, they can always sign up then. That leaves a much smaller pool comprised of sicker individuals which means that in subsequent years the costs of the policies will rise even higher. That's the death spiral for ObamaCare. 

These problems will only get worse when the employer mandate extension expires and millions more are dumped into this mess. ObamaCare has taken a health insurance system that worked reasonably well for most people and is turning it into a system where the majority will be at a distinct disadvantage compared to their previous coverage. And since this is not something happening far away from home, but effects millions of Americans, they will know who to blame and it's not the Republicans!


Just a few more stories to add to the list:
  • On MSNBC, NBC's David Gregory from Meet the Press described the ObamaCare rollout as a “caricature of incompetence.” Like Klein above, if you've lost David Gregory you are in trouble!
  • At Business Insider, ObamaCare backer Josh Barrow participated in a conference call with the HHS office responsible for overseeing the web site and other programs. His concern is that we are not getting the full story of what went wrong and how it might be fixed:
There’s no reason not to level with the public right now, unless the truth is so horrible and the website is so un-fixable that Obama administration officials can’t bring themselves to discuss the matter publicly.
  •  CBS News ran a report of a California woman whose story is typical of millions nationwide.“I was completely happy with the insurance I had before,” she said. now:
    “Before I had a plan that I had a $1,500 deductible,” she said. “I paid $199 dollars a month. The most similar plan that I would have available to me would be $278 a month. My deductible would be $6,500 dollars, and all of my care after that point would only be covered 70 percent.”
    Ed Morrissey summarizes: Do the math here. Willes will have to pay $948 more a year for the new policy, but that’s not all. She will also have to another $5,000 extra on top of that to get past the deductible each year before she gets any benefit from the policy at all. If she’s reasonably healthy, all of her medical costs will get paid straight out of her pocket, on top of her insurance policy costs which will now total $3,336, or almost a cool $10,000 after the deductible before she sees any benefit at all.
  • Highlighting the financial collapse issue, another huge problem for ObamaCare is that the majority of people who are able to enroll are signing up for Medicaid, not ObamaCare. If that trend holds, the death spiral for ObamaCare will accelerate.

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