White House set to announce ObamaCare delay?
Some White House sources are disputing the report, but here’s what NBC News claimed via Twitter on Wednesday night that the President “ntends to delay the deadline requiring every American to buy health insurance by as much as 6 weeks.”
Well, what do you know? The Republicans won the shutdown battle after all.
Of course, if this report holds up, it will most likely be a wave of His Majesty the King’s imperial wand that grants this dispensation to his unworthy serfs, not anything to do with representative government, the separation of powers, or any of that old powdered-wig stuff from our bygone Constitutional past.
After an apparently disastrous meeting between White House officials and congressional Democrats today, there has been much buzz about some sort of delay, to give the Administration more time to fix the disastrous $400 million website it created. Some have suggested the delay would simply be a matter of moving back enrollment deadlines to mid-March. There have been anecdotal reports that the famed ObamaCare “navigators” are already telling people the deadline is in March, although it’s actually in February. Since they don’t seem to do much except read scripts – they’re basically human error messages – maybe they were given revised scripts already, in preparation for the new policy. (Or maybe they were just giving misleading answers.)
It’s tough to see how such a brief delay would make all that much of a difference, or how the enrollment deadline could be fudged without throwing off the rest of the Affordable Care Act, particularly if we’re supposed to believe the individual mandate and its tax/penalty are not being delayed.
Earlier today, Democrat Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia – no stranger to stunts aimed at fooling his constituents into thinking he’s not a party-line foot soldier, most famously by shooting a pile of cap-and-trade legislation with a rifle – declared he was working on a bill to delay the individual mandate by a year. More details from Roll Call:
Republican Marco Rubio of Florida is working on legislation to delay the mandate indefinitely — which Manchin’s office says the senator does not support — and it’s entirely possible the GOP could push for a delay provision to be included as an amendment vote to the next moving vehicle, using Manchin’s effort as leverage inside the Dome and as political fodder outside it, from entities such as the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The Rubio bill would delay the mandate for six months after a Government Accountability Office certification that the healthcare.gov website is working.
It’s not yet clear what the Manchin legislation would look like. Manchin’s office only would confirm that it’s being discussed and the senator is looking for co-sponsors.
“He believes that this year should be a transition year and the penalty should not be imposed. He does believe that individuals should still be able to sign up for the exchanges if they want,” Manchin spokesman Jonathan Kott said in an emailed statement.
Of course, two of the three immediate crises plaguing ObamaCare are that (1) not many people want to sign up, and (2) most of the people who do want to sign up, can’t. By now, frustrated ObamaCare customers have realized that President Obama played them for fools at his Rose Garden press conference by telling them to call the toll-free help line number. You can’t really “shop” for insurance that way, the phone line isn’t working much better than the website… and the people who answer the phone have to use the broken web system to render any meaningful assistance. Calling 1-800-F1U-CKYO (that is the actual number) just leaves you sitting on speakerphone while somebody else fails to use the website you can’t log into.
The third immediate crisis of ObamaCare is the death spiral: the financial ruin awaiting insurance companies if a very large number of young and healthy people don’t buy into the system and pay exorbitant premiums. Quite a large percentage of the meager “enrollments” we’ve heard reports of are actually low-income applicants getting shifted into Medicaid, which is a huge burden on the taxpayer, but won’t do anything for the insurance companies that sell ObamaCare policies.
If the individual mandate is delayed for a year, there will be zero pressure on young revenue targets to buy into the system. In fact, healthy people would be foolish to buy insurance at all, since they’re guaranteed coverage if they develop a “pre-existing condition.” It’s an open question whether the private insurance providers could stay in business for a year without the individual mandate. Their prospects aren’t currently looking all that good even with it.
The other delay proposal emanating from Democrats was floated by Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. As reported by Politico, she’s looking for some kind of “extended enrollment” escape hatch, instead of calling for outright delay:
Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is calling on the White House to extend Obamacare’s open enrollment period amid continued frustration with the troubled HealthCare.gov.
“The difficulty that people in New Hampshire and in other states that are relying on the federally facilitated marketplaces are experiencing is incredibly frustrating and disappointing,” Shaheen wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama. “For over three years, we have been waiting for the creation of the health insurance exchanges, which now in their fourth week of existence, are riddled with problems.”
[,,,] “Allowing extra time for consumers is critically important so they have the opportunity to become familiar with the website, survey their options and enroll,” she wrote. “As website glitches persist, we are losing valuable time to educate and enroll people in insurance plans. I also fear that people that have tried, and failed, to enroll online may become frustrated and not return to the website to try again at a later date.”
Isn’t that adorable? She wants “clarification” about whether the White House intends to respect the “settled law of the land,” as they’ve been fond of calling it.
Since the Democrats just shut down the government to thwart the very delay they are now entertaining, while insulting their opponents as “terrorists,” “hostage-takers,” and “arsonists,” I’d suggest Republican leaders tell them the deal is now between 100 percent repeal of ObamaCare, and 100 percent enforcement of the entire law as written and passed, no waivers and no exceptions, including the employer mandate Obama violated the law to reschedule. Really, there’s no way to save this disaster with piecemeal delay efforts, and no reason anyone should want to. There’s certainly no reason to allow the Democrats to weasel out of taking responsibility for the disaster they’ve created. And as I recall Barack Obama saying once upon a time, the people who created a disaster shouldn’t do a lot of talking while repair efforts are under way.
Update: I’ve seen some reports that what the White House is actually doing is “clarifying” the existing policy, a typically messed-up Orwellian nightmare in which individual mandate victims theoretically had until March to enroll, but were actually in trouble if they didn’t register a purchase by February. The idea now is to clarify that people really do have until March to get signed up. It’s as twisted and confusing as everything else related to the Affordable Care Act, so it sounds plausible. The modest shift in deadlines, as mentioned above, won’t likely be enough to make a difference for resolving the technical “glitches,” and we’ll be deprived of the entertainment of watching anguished health care purchases scream that they were told they had until March, but were getting socked with the tax/penalty after a February cutoff date they didn’t know about.