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If you like your ObamaCare deadline, you can keep it

If you like your ObamaCare deadline, you can keep it

The Heritage Foundation takes us for a walk down memory lane, parting the veil of time to peer back into the shadowy recesses of the distant past (i.e. last week) and remember all the iron-clad, “let us be clear” promises that ObamaCare’s March 31 sign-up deadline was solid as a rock:

“We have no plans to extend the open enrollment period. In fact, we don’t actually have the statutory authority to extend the open enrollment period in 2014.” — Health and Human Services (HHS) official Julie Bataille, March 11

“Once that 2014 open enrollment period has been set, they are set permanently.” – HHS official Michael Hash, March 11

“March 31st is the deadline for enrollment. You’ve heard us make that clear.” – Press Secretary Jay Carney, March 21

“There is no delay beyond March 31.” – HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, March 12

That first quote is especially amusing.  Since when did the lack of legal authority stop Barack Obama and his flunkies from re-writing the Affordable Care Act?

This is also the same Administration that keeps pronouncing itself delighted with the pace of ObamaCare signups, although its officials and Chief Executive melt into puddles of flop sweat when asked any follow-up questions about their dubious enrollment figures – such as how many of the applicants are healthy young people, how many previously lacked insurance, and especially how many have paid the first premium to secure valid policies.

And it’s the same Administration that has been blowing bundles of our tax money on a desperate last-minute advertising campaign filled with vaguely threatening messages about the looming March 31 deadline.  They quietly modified the law to introduce an easy way to evade the trans-Constitutional individual mandate tax/penalty (by claiming a “hardship exemption” in which Barack Obama is the hardship) but they didn’t make a big public announcement about it.  Nor did they make a big deal about the fact that young Obama voters who don’t comply with his command to purchase overpriced insurance are going to get taxed up the wazoo by President Coolsville.  They just kept harping on that deadline.

Well, the harp springs have broken, the rock-solid deadline has crumbled into dust, and the deadline HHS has no statutory authority to extend has been extended.  The Washington Post chronicles the latest stop on the road to banana-republic governance, in which the law is whatever Dear Leader says it is on any given day:

Federal officials confirmed Tuesday evening that all consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, but who do not finish by Monday, will have until about mid-April to ask for an extension.

Under the new rules, people will be able to qualify for an extension by checking a blue box on HealthCare.gov to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline. This method will rely on an honor system; the government will not try to determine whether the person is telling the truth.

The rules, which will apply to the federal exchanges operating in three dozen states, will essentially create a large loophole even as White House officials have repeatedly said that the March 31 deadline was firm. The extra time will not technically alter the deadline but will create a broad new category of people eligible for what’s known as a special enrollment period.

Amusingly, Obama’s flacks are portraying this as preparation for some mythical last-minute surge of ObamaCare buyers, who have supposedly been holding off until the very last week to sign up:

“We are . . . making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment — either online or over the phone,” said Julie Bataille, director of the office of communications for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency overseeing the federal health-care exchange.

The extra time will not be restricted, though, to people who wait until the last minute to try to sign up. Although no one will be asked why they need an extension, the idea is to help people whose applications have been held up because of the Web site’s technical problems, or who haven’t been able to get the system to calculate subsidies to help them pay for coverage.

“Consumers who may be in line by the deadline?”  What “line?”  I thought the $600 million junk website was all better now, after three or four hundred million in fixes (they’re very tight-lipped about the exact cost.)  If they wanted to help people “in line by the deadline,” they could have limited the extension to those who were demonstrably using the new-and-improved HealthCare.gov as of midnight March 31, but instead they’ve reduced American government to a pathetic joke by making it an honor-system check box.  If you can’t get through to HealthCare.gov to get your application under way by March 31, because you’re stuck in “line,” how are you supposed to check off the blue box?

And what about the losers stuck in states whose foolish governors opted to set up state insurance exchanges?  They evidently don’t get any extensions, because the latest mutation of the Affordable Care Act only applies to the federal exchange.  What if they’re “stuck in line” on March 31?  In some of those states, the online exchanges are still almost completely non-functional, so people couldn’t check off any blue online boxes even if they had one.  Be sure to thank your Democrat governor for all the great work they’ve done setting up your state exchange, folks!

Well, at least the new April deadline is chiseled in granite, right?

According to a Health and Human Services official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about decisions that have not been made public, an exact time frame for this extension has not been set, and it will depend in part on how many people request it. Nor have officials decided precisely how long people will have to select a health plan after they get the extra time.

Starting in about mid-April, people will no longer be able to get extensions through HealthCare.gov. After that, consumers will be able to request one through one of the federally sponsored call centers nationwide. At that point, the grounds for an extension will become narrower, matching rules for special enrollment periods that have existed for the past few months. Those include people who have a new baby, are getting a divorce, lose a job with health insurance or had a technical problem signing up for coverage through HealthCare.gov.

Uh huh.  Check back in mid-April to see how Dear Leader feels that morning, after he checks the morning papers and sees how Democrat polls for the midterm elections are looking, before you make any assumptions about how “narrow” the conditions for deadline extension will become.  It’s not as if the Affordable Care Act is a “law” in any meaningful sense; they can change it on a whim, as the winds of political fortune shift.  They’ll probably do some more shifting as the embarrassment of the latest deadline extension takes a toll on the ObamaCare perpetrators up for re-election this year.

The uncertainty created by these constant illegal rewrites of the Affordable Care Act is more than just an annoyance for confused American citizens.  It has serious financial repercussions for the business community – especially the insurance industry, whose business model is heavily based upon the anticipation of future trends.  Executives have already thrown up their hands and begun talking about doubling and tripling the already sky-high premiums for ObamaCare policies, in part because of Obama’s constant tinkering with the rules.  Among other problems, these deadline extensions and individual-mandate waivers increase the danger that healthy customers will hold off on buying insurance until they get sick – the doomsday scenario in an environment where insurance must be sold regardless of pre-existing conditions.

And the ObamaCare wrecking ball has yet to slam into the vastly larger market for employer-provided insurance.  Just imagine how may rewrites the non-law will suffer when that drama begins unfolding this year, and those shaky Democrat poll numbers go into free fall.  Every line of the Affordable Care Act remains written in pencil, and the people holding the erasers lie to us every time they make a public statement or deliver congressional testimony.  We should end this farce by formally extending every ObamaCare deadline to March 31, 2525.

Update: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on the latest ObamaCare delay: “What the hell is this, a joke?”  (Video courtesy of the Washington Free Beacon.)

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