Sunday, October 20, 2013

Going Down with Obamacare

Consider the source. In this case, Jeffrey Young of the Huffington Post explains that the catastrophic failure of the Obamacare website threatens the liberal concept of a benevolent, competent federal government.

Left thinking people are panicking because they suspect that Obamacare will destroy the rationale behind the Great Society and its avatars.

Young is certainly not an Obama critic. He is worried that government itself  will be discredited by the Obamacare website fiasco.

In his words:

A broken website imperils the largest expansion of the American safety net since the Great Society.

More than two weeks into the disastrous rollout of, the website created by President Barack Obama's health care reform law still isn't working right.

How bad is it? Young explains:

The stakes are high for uninsured people, individuals and families who buy their health insurance directly and the entire health care industry. Without a functioning health insurance exchange, many people too sick or too poor to get health insurance under the old rules will remain shut out of the system. The millions of Americans who already buy their own insurance will face major disruptions. Health insurance companies could experience a nightmare scenario where the bulk of the individuals who brave the frustrating sign-up process are those who are sick, desperate for coverage and expensive to treat.

And anyone who isn't able to get coverage because of the exchanges' problems could confront the prospect of tax penalties through no fault of their own.

The Obama presidency and liberal policies are in serious danger:

For Obama and the Democrats who've stood behind Obamacare during four years of relentless attacks from Republicans -- including a face-off that led to a 16-day government shutdown and a threat of U.S. default -- failure of this magnitude would discredit a core premise of this presidency, that government can do big things to improve Americans' lives.

Although there are signs of incremental improvement, is unable to reliably allow consumers to create accounts, verify their identifies, apply for tax credits available to low- and middle-income people or shop for health insurance plans.Insurers are receiving bad enrollment data and states are reporting difficulties in accessing the federal system.

Young interviewed a health care consultant who laid it out in stark terms:

Robert Laszewski, a health care industry consultant, is skeptical that the health insurance exchanges' information technology failings can be mitigated in time to prevent chaos. "The fix might be to take it down and start over," he said. "I don't know what the best-case scenario for these guys fixing this thing is, but it's got to be two or three weeks, minimum."

The urgency is underscored not only by the fact that the low-income Americans and the 48 million uninsured -- those whom the law was primarily intended to benefit -- won't get the help they were promised. There's also the plight of those who currently have coverage they bought themselves that now has to be replaced, said Laszewski, who is president of Alexandria, Va.-based Health Policy and Strategy Associates. That represents about 3.6 percent of the population, according to census data.

Many health insurance products currently on the market don't meet Obamacare's benefit standards and consumer protections so they are being discontinued. Consumers with these plans are the most likely to see rate increases next year, especially if they earn too much to get tax credits. "They've got to convert to a new policy -- no ifs, ands or buts about it," Laszewski said.

Under these circumstances, the lion's share of the people who do whatever is necessary to sign up through are likely to be the sickest and most expensive to cover because they have the greatest need, Laszewski said. That would make the pool of people covered very costly, causing health insurers to lose money and likely rethink whether they want to participate in the exchanges, he said. "The fundamental threat to Obamacare is we don't get enough healthy people in the pool to keep the rates reasonable, and they are in grave danger of that problem," he said.
If these problems persist longer -- weeks, months, a whole year -- the entire Obamacare project falls apart, Laszewski said: "It's a holy shit moment."

While we are considering the source, here’s a report published by NBC, also not an Obama critic. First written for Kaiser Health News, the report emphasizes that when President Obama promised that you could keep your health insurance if you wanted to, he was lying. In fact, most of the promises that Obama made, like those that you could keep your doctor if you wanted to, were also lies.

It’s not news that Obama was lying. It’s the source:

Health plans are sending hundreds of thousands of cancellation letters to people who buy their own coverage, frustrating some consumers who want to keep what they have and forcing others to buy more costly policies.

The main reason insurers offer is that the policies fall short of what the Affordable Care Act requires starting Jan. 1. Most are ending policies sold after the law passed in March 2010. At least a few are canceling plans sold to people with pre-existing medical conditions.

By all accounts, the new policies will offer consumers better coverage, in some cases, for comparable cost -- especially after the inclusion of federal subsidies for those who qualify. The law requires policies sold in the individual market to cover 10 “essential” benefits, such as prescription drugs, mental health treatment and maternity care. In addition, insurers cannot reject people with medical problems or charge them higher prices.
The policies must also cap consumers’ annual expenses at levels lower than many plans sold before the new rules.

But the cancellation notices, which began arriving in August, have shocked many consumers in light of President Barack Obama’s promise that people could keep their plans if they liked them.

The story also explains that while some consumers will be offered more coverage for better or comparable prices that too is slightly deceptive. In many cases they will be paying more for less insurance with higher deductibles.

Kaiser News reports:

Kris Malean, 56, lives outside Seattle, and has a health policy that costs $390 a month with a $2,500 deductible and a $10,000 in potential out-of-pocket costs for such things as doctor visits, drug costs or hospital care.

As a replacement, Regence BlueShield is offering her a plan for $79 more a month with a deductible twice as large as what she pays now, but which limits her potential out-of-pocket costs to $6,250 a year, including the deductible.

To be fair and balanced, I offer the thoughts of someone who has not defended Obama. Ross Douthat is already comparing the administration’s website calamity to the Bush administration’s conduct of the aftermath of the war in Iraq.

Douthat writes:

Like the Bush administration in Iraq, the White House seems to have invaded the health insurance marketplace with woefully inadequate postinvasion planning, and let the occupation turn into a disaster of hack work and incompetence. Right now, the problems with the exchange Web site appear to be systemic — a mess on the front end, where people are supposed to shop for plans, and also a thicket at the back end, where insurers are supposed to process applications.

If the Web site doesn’t work soon, even liberals concede that the mandate would have to be delayed, because you can’t very well fine people for failing to buy a product they can’t access. And that combination — a hard-to-navigate online portal and no penalty for staying uninsured — could effectively discourage all but the most desperate customers from shopping, which in turn would create an unsustainably expensive insurance pool, driving prices up and driving people away, and potentially wrecking the entire individual insurance market in short order.

The great political conflict between those who believe in government and those who believe in markets seems to have taken a turn toward the free marketeers.

Filled with the arrogance that befalls those who do not have to answer to the market, government bureaucrats have made an ungodly mess in the health insurance market.

The question now remaining is this: Can the administration’s media propagandists manage to turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse?


Dennis said...

And this does not even consider what hackers/id thieves, et al are going to do to it. Just the added overhead required to provide a minimum of security will slow response times because the system will not be able to handle the throughput. There is far too much information required.
Add to that the number of IRS agents, FBI and other enforcement mechanisms and one has a virtual "police state." I would suggest that the Left is not going to be to happy once they realize how much of their freedom they are in the process of giving away by expanding the government to the size requisite in even marginally making this work.
One has to ask the question, Does anyone in their right mind think all of this information is not going to be used for other applications that might not be in the person's personal interest? What happens if the dreaded Republicans take power given how the Obama administration has throttled the media?
The sad part here is that we could have taken a couple of steps to rectify the deficiencies in the present healthcare delivery system and improved it instead of creating this monstrosity.
Here one sees the perfect example of when one has advantage and fails to understand that therein lies the seeds to disadvantage. Not to have considered the positives and negatives only serves to make everyone further in thrall to the government.
There is nothing more dangerous to freedom and life than a "Do Gooder!" They are so concentrated on a goal that they fail to see what can go wrong and the larger ramifications of their actions. The desire to be superior always leads to inferior results. The ultimate stupidity of the elites is always on display. One would think that those who begin to think themselves superior would stop and take action to think about what that really says about them.

Dennis said...

Addition to my comments:
Do you wonder why "supposed" smart people are almost always the initiators of their own downfall?

Anonymous said...

I think Dennis raises a lot of sobering questions with regard to the dangers inherent in this vast expansion of state power. I suspect that just as long as the cudgel is being wielded by the "right" people (the left) against "reactionaries, homophobes, sexists" etc (i.e. anyone who disagrees with them)the left will be fine with it. If the shoe is on the other foot they will scream bloody murder.

As for the failure of Obamacare being a boon to the forces of conservatism (or classical liberalism) I think this might be wishful thinking. Huge swathes of the left (and the media, academia, leftist judiciary) will just conclude that more state control is required. The ratchet never rests. It is alarming to think that your post on modern France may be a glimpse into our future. I fear that this will happen if we import the entire Mexican underclass and other Third World constituencies and allow the left to cement its dependency agenda in place forever.

Dennis said...

Just to add to my prior comments:
Read the comments section as well.

I would suggest that there have always been a significant presence of the left in all the institution mentioned, but they were never enough to really control an informed electorate. One would only have to look at Wellesley, Columbia, Harvard, et al historically. I am more sanguine that there is a tipping point, but I still have a modicum of faith in the people of this country especially if they stop complaining, get out and learn about the issues and take action and actually vote to remove the people making this possible and then vote for for ideology after their removal. I listen to people complain and the first question I ask is did you vote. The answer, in most cases, is NO my vote would not make a difference. Considering that most of these elections are won by small majority if half the people who complain voted there would be a new government in DC and else where.
Obamacare is a very large window into the real incompetence of government action.

Dennis said...
Given ANON12:23 concerns one only needs to look at NYC to see voters who really have no clue. The amount of crime they are going to suffer with their vote for a "Dinken's" type mayor makes one wonder.