The air of desperation surrounding ObamaCare gets thicker and thicker with each passing day. And no matter how dishonest President Obama, his administration officials, Democrats and their media allies, are in their attempt to fool the public, painful truths about this disaster can no longer be obscured.
We begin with premiums. As revealed by The Hill, they are about to “skyrocket,” with costs in some parts of the country increasing by as much as 200 percent. Unsurprisingly, this revelation runs completely counter to the Obama administration’s claims, most recently advanced by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in last week’s testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee. “The increases are far less significant than what they were prior to the Affordable Care Act,” the Secretary said.
Except that they’re not. A report by eHealth explains that premiums in the individual health market have risen 39 percent for individuals, and 56 percent for families, since February 2013. Minus the subsidies, the average cost of an individual plan is now $274, and a family plan is now $663 per month, up from $446 last year. And despite Sebelius’s contention, these figures are higher than those recorded between 2005 and 2013, when individual and family premiums rose at a rate of 37 percent and 31 percent, respectively.
Administration officials counter that subsidies will bring those costs down. That is certainly true, but those so-called reductions aren’t reductions at all. They merely shift the part of a premium’s cost from the individual or family insurance consumers to the taxpayers at large. This cost-shifting goes a long way towards explaining why a plan the president and his party promised would cost $900 billion over a decade when it was first introduced, quickly tripled to $2.7 trillion.
With regard to those premium increases, the biggest driver should have been the most obvious: Americans are now required to purchase “essential health benefits,” another wildly misleading euphemism designed to obscure yet another, but far more pernicious aspect of cost-shifting embodied in ObamaCare. There is nothing remotely essential in requiring a 50-year-old man to be covered for maternity and newborn care, or senior citizens to be covered for pediatric services.
Thus, many insurers are utterly baffled by Sebelius’s contention, especially in light of the disastrous rollout of the healthcare.gov website. “It’s pretty shortsighted because I think everybody knows that the way the exchange has rolled out … is going to lead to higher costs,” said one senior insurance executive who requested anonymity. That same executive said he expects insurance rates to triple in the “populous swing state” from which he hails.
Other insurance executives were equally frustrated with another cost driver, namely the administration’s unconstitutional penchant for changing the parameters of the law. They cited the administration’s decision to allow people to keep their old insurance policies instead of forcing them onto the exchanges, the limited amount of money government has to help cover the costs of older and sicker patients, and the under-enrollment of the so-call “young invincibles” that could help keep costs down. “We’re exasperated,” the same unnamed executive contended. “All of these major delays on very significant portions of the law are going to change what it’s going to cost.”
The lack of enrollment by young healthy Americans could be the deciding factor in determining those costs. The current data is not breaking well for an administration that projected the percentage of ObamaCare purchasers in the 18 to 35 age group would be 40 percent. As of March 1, approximately 4.2 million Americans had selected an ObamaCare plan. Less than 1.1 million, or only 25 percent of them, belonged to that demographic. From October through February, the number of signups averaged out to 840,000 per month. In order to reach the 40 percent figure by the end of this month, more than 900,000 people would have to sign up for the plan — and everyone of them and their covered family members would have to be between the ages of 18 and 35.
And once again, note the term “sign ups.” On Tuesday, embattled White House Press Secretary Jay Carey was finally forced to admit what many Americans have known for a long time: sign ups isn’t remotely the same as pay ups. “We can point you to major insurers who have placed that [pay up] figure at 80 percent, give-or-take, depending on the insurer,” Carney said. That means one-in-five don’t have actual coverage. When Fox News correspondent Ed Henry originally asked Carney why the administration continues to use the word “enrolled,” Carney declined to answer.
The lack of candor is hardly an anomaly. The president and his party promised that health insurance would be more affordable, saving families as much as $2500 per year in costs. That was a baldfaced lie. But it was the lesser of two baldfaced lies with which insurance companies had to cope. The greater lie was the president’s oft-repeated promise that Americans could keep their doctor and their healthcare providers. Faced with bad or worse, insurance companies chose bad: in response to the Obama administration’s benefit mandates, taxes and regulations, they narrowed provider networks to keep premium costs down.
Unfortunately, even that option didn’t work. Despite narrow, sometimes drastically narrow, networks that deprived many Americans of critical care formerly provided by their “bad apple” insurance policies, premium prices still increased by double digits in most markets.
Remarkably, the administration’s “solution” for the problem will inevitably exacerbate it. The HHS sent a letter to insurance companies informing them that they must provide “reasonable access” to doctors and hospitals beginning next year, including an expansion of access to “essential community providers” from 20 percent to 30 percent. In addition, healthcare regulators will looking at other cost-cutting features in insurers’ plans, in an effort to determine if they are “discriminatory” with regard to discouraging sick Americans to sign up for healthcare.
As is typical with this administration, the term “reasonable access” is left undefined, doubtless to give them case-by-case leverage against those insurers they wish to single out for the kind of political humiliation that deflects blame away from the Obama administration and a Democratic Party wholly responsible for this mess. As for the word “discrimination,” is there even a scintilla of doubt that it will be used as a club to browbeat those same insurers?
Another undefined term could be far more problematic. ObamaCare gives customers a 90-day grace period for unpaid premiums before insurers can cancel their coverage. Yet insurers are only responsible for claims made in the first 30 days. During the next 60 days, insurers can place subsequent claims in a “pending status”–and ultimately deny payment for them if insurance is cancelled, leaving healthcare providers on the hook. The administration contends the grace period rule is limited to those who have already paid one month’s premium, and requires insurance companies to notify healthcare providers “as soon as practicable” when those customers are in arrears.
The American Medical Association (AMA), which shamelessly shilled for the passage of ObamaCare, grasped the implications. “Managing risk is typically a role for insurers, but the grace period rule transfers two-thirds of that risk from the insurers to physicians and health care providers,” AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven said in a statement. On Wednesday, they provided their members with guidelines to help them manage that possibility. But even those guidelines couldn’t obscure the truth. “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulations do not specify how the health insurance issuer must notify you when one of your patients enters the grace period,” they stated.
Perhaps the biggest and most painful truth about ObamaCare was illuminated by the Washington Times’ Joseph Curl, who reminds us that original impetus behind the bill was to insure the 46 million Americans President Obama warned us were only “one illness away from financial ruin.” As Curl noted the above enrollment figures of only 4.2 million, or just 9 percent of the 46 million cited by Obama, he asked the obvious question: We changed the $2.7 trillion health care system to sign up 4.2 million people?
If data compiled by Goldman Sachs are correct, even that paltry number is misleading. The investment bank projects that the Obamacare exchanges will end up actually enrolling 4 million people–but only 1 million of them will have been previously uninsured.
Regardless, the bill’s cheerleaders remain defiant. When Obama appeared on her TV show, useful idiot Ellen DeGeneres contended that “everyone’s very grateful” for Obamacare. The terminally clueless Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who defied the available data and contended that ObamaCare has “dramatically” slowed the growth in healthcare costs, insisted Democrats “couldn’t be prouder” of the bill and that it would backfire for the GOP as a campaign plank. Slate’s David Weigel believes all Democrats have to do is “find Obamacare success stories.”
Again, reality bites. As The Hill reveals, opposition to ObamaCare remains near its all time high with a 53 percent disapproval rating. ABC’s Jeff Zeleny revealed that “privately several Democrats tell ABC News they’re increasingly worried the health care law is political poison.” As for ObamaCare stories, here’s a compilation of 50 negative ones–from every state in the union.
Yet the ultimate reality is the simplest one for the American public to grasp. The president and his administration have taken a duly enacted law and made a complete and unconstitutional mockery of it, altering or delaying every onerous piece for nothing more than transparent political considerations. They have done so with complete complicity from Congressional Democrats, who have made an equal mockery of the constitutionally-mandated separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches. That’s how the president, his administration and Democrats have demonstrated, not talked about their “pride” for ObamaCare.
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