Healthcare

ObamaCare’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad autumn

ObamaCare's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad autumn

There’s a good reason the Democrats instructed their media pals to keep quiet about ObamaCare.  Remember all that triumphalism in April, when President Obama cooked up some laughably flimsy numbers and claimed he’d met the enrollment targets?  Remember how right after that, the Administration stopped releasing enrollment data (because it was going down) and the media stopped asking?

The Democrat-media complex is trying to defuse ObamaCare as an issue in the fall elections, going so far as to brew up little whisper-campaign stories about how it’s supposedly not such a hot issue any more, Republicans have other things to run on, and the public has wearily accepted the survival of this boondoggle, even if polls say they still don’t like it very much.

Back in the real world, more insurance cancellation notices are going out.  Watchdog.org spotted a wave of them rolling through Virginia last week:

Virginia’s Health Insurance Reform Commission learned Wednesday that 250,000 Virginians will receive notices their health insurance plans are being canceled as a result of the Affordable Care Act. That’s in addition to the thousands of Virginians who had already been notified over the last year their plans are no longer compliant with President Obama’s signature health care law.

“I am deeply concerned that, at a time when families are already struggling to make ends meet, another 250,000 policy holders will have to trim their budgets back even further,” Republican Delegate and Commission Chairman Kathy Byron said in a statement.

Of course, those who lose their health care plans can purchase another that complies with the ACA — but the likelihood is they’ll pay higher premiums each month.

The Manhattan Institute, a think tank that studies health care issues among others, found that older men (around age 64) are the only general group benefitting from lower rates than before because of the ACA. Young men (around age 27) are suffering the most from higher premiums as a result of Obamacare — an average 67 percent monthly increase.

And that’s happening even after Barack Obama flagrantly violated the Constitution to modify the Affordable Care Act on the fly, extending the grace period for grandfathered insurance plans long enough to get him safely out of office.  As Investor’s Business Daily notes, that illegal patch job didn’t require insurance companies to keep the old plans alive, so a lot of them are pulling the plug anyway:

Virginians aren’t the only ones who will have to abandon the health plans they like. Kaiser Health News reported earlier this month that consumers in many states “may soon find a surprise in their mailbox: a notice that their health plan is being canceled.”

It turns out that insurers aren’t required to extend their plans past this year, much less the next two. And some states, like Virginia, limited the exemption to just one year.

There’s also the prospect of millions of workers at small firms finding out that their employers’ plans have been canceled, and that ObamaCare-approved plans are far costlier.

Either way, it will all be a fresh reminder of the extraordinarily high costs of the “Affordable Care Act.”

On top of that, up to a quarter of a million members of the current ObamaCare customer base might be losing their coverage because their citizenship status cannot be verified.  To stave off those bad headlines until after the midterm election, the Administration quietly extended the deadline for verifying immigration status for a couple of years.  The deadline was supposed to have been September 5.

ObamaCare rate shock has been one of the great suppressed stories of the Obama presidency, an era in which “journalists” seem to spend more time hiding and soft-pedaling damaging stories than reporting them.  Premiums have been surging across the land, while the first round of “sorry, you don’t actually qualify for subsidies” letters are being stuffed into envelopes over at the Internal Revenue Service.  If the current court challenges to the legality of subsidies for federal exchange customers are successful – and they absolutely should be – a lot more of those letters will be on the way.

The really scary thing is that rate shock should be even worse… but the Administration pulled some elaborate back-room maneuvers with subsidies to insurance companies to keep rate hikes artificially and temporarily suppressed for a couple of years, and that band-aid is starting to peel off, too.  The Wall Street Journal explains how it worked, based on a report from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee:

We see Chet Burrell, head of Maryland insurer CareFirst, emailing in alarm last April to White House aide Valerie Jarrett. The administration had just publicly stated its “risk corridor” plan would be revenue neutral—i.e., no extra taxpayer dollars would be available to cover insurer losses.

We see Mr. Burrell warning that sticking with this plan would mean politically “an unwelcome surprise,” namely premium hikes of 20% or more later this year as ObamaCare policies come up for renewal.

We see Ms. Jarrett emailing back in concern. We see her later assuring Mr. Burrell that insurers would get 80% of what they sought. After another program tweak in May, the figure would be closer to 100%.

Sure enough, this week came the fallout. Bob Laszewski, a policy wonk and former insurance executive whose bloggings are closely followed in the ObamaCare debate, writes that the administration has succeeded in temporarily suppressing incipient ObamaCare price hikes, contributing to an illusion of sustainability. He suggests that some insurers might even slash rates to “grab market share because they have nothing to lose with the now unlimited ObamaCare reinsurance program covering their losses.”

That explains the chronic pain you’ve been feeling in your wallet, dear taxpayer.  Once again, you’ve been robbed blind by the ObamaCare scam artists, who poured your money into back-door payoffs to insurance companies in an effort to trick you into thinking insurance premiums won’t go up enough to make your blood boil.  When the subsidies run out, that pain in your wallet will grow sharp enough to make your financial appendix burst – either the long-suppressed premium hikes will erupt like volcanoes, or you’ll be on the hook for a massive insurance company “risk corridor” bailout.  I suspect it will be the latter.  It’s always easier to boil a big tax-base frog slowly, instead of allowing acute pain to settle on smaller groups of angry individuals.  The insurance bailout will either be tossed off as deficit spending to be covered later, or financed with some new class-war tax on the Evil Rich.  In fact, I’d quibble with the conclusion of that Wall Street Journal editorial, which is called “ObamaCare and American Decline”:

Suddenly luminous is the true historical significance of ObamaCare: A left-liberal president, in the backwash of a global economic crisis that he could plausibly blame on Wall Street, could not get a “public option” through an all-Democratic Congress.

The high tide for single payer has come and gone in America. The action now moves permanently to the challenge of paying for existing welfare programs, not creating new ones.

This connects to another Obama legacy, a more dangerous and disorderly world. A world in which America needs to tighten up and toughen up. A world in which rising powers (e.g., China) no longer can be expected to finance endless American deficits so Americans can spend somebody else’s money on health care. Election 2016 can’t come fast enough for an America that needs a radical change of direction to cope with a changing world.

I don’t think the single-payer crew is completely demoralized by what they’re seeing here.  Remember, ObamaCare was always supposed to fail and pave the way for socialized medicine; the scam artists who forced in upon us are increasingly carefree about admitting that.  Part of the transition plan will involve portraying single-payer medicine – health welfare for everyone! – as a cost-saving move, when measured against the expensive folly of ObamaCare’s corporatist approach.

But I digress.  Here’s a rather spectacular example of how the rate-shock band-aid not only slipped off, but burst into flames, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports the top-selling insurance provider for Year One on the state ObamaCare exchange is bailing completely out of the market in Year Two, with almost no notice:

Golden Valley-based PreferredOne had set the lowest premium prices in the nation last year and signed up nearly 6 in 10 consumers who shopped on the MNsure exchange.

But the insurer’s CEO, Marcus Merz, said this week in a letter to the exchange’s leaders that “continuing to provide this coverage through MNsure is not sustainable.”

The move could portend higher health care premiums in the year ahead and is the latest setback for an exchange that suffered persistent technical problems in its debut year.

“That’s a huge blow to MNsure,” said Allan Baumgarten, an independent Twin Cities health care analyst.

The rest of the article seems to assume technical problems with the MNSure website are the big reason PreferredOne is taking a powder, but the CEO seems to be talking about unsustainable finances, not a crappy website.  If that’s all it was, the company probably wouldn’t be refusing to give more details:

Current PreferredOne customers still have coverage through the end of this year. They can choose to stay with PreferredOne next year, under state law, though premiums could be higher.

Consumers who qualify for tax credits that reduce the cost of insurance can only receive help if they purchase a health plan through MNsure, however.

Officials with the Golden Valley insurer declined to further explain why selling through the MNsure marketplace starting Nov. 15 no longer makes business sense to them.

So enjoy the higher premiums, PreferredOne customers – and oh, by the way, you don’t qualify for taxpayer subsidies any more.  Do you think a company of this size would risk incurring the wrath of such a large customer base if they were just unhappy with the performance of the state web portal, or slightly dissatisfied with the profitability of those ObamaCare plans?

Rate shock isn’t just about premiums going up.  Deductibles are soaring under ObamaCare too.  In fact, the bulk of the financial wallop hitting America is coming from higher deductibles, as USA Today reports:

Premiums for employer-paid insurance are up 3% this year, but deductibles are up nearly 50% since 2009, the report by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows.

The average deductible this year is $1,217, up from $826 five years ago. Nearly 20% of workers overall have to pay at least $2,000 before their insurance kicks in, while workers at firms with 199 or fewer employees are feeling the pain of out-of-pocket costs even more: A third of these employees at small companies pay at least $2,000 deductibles.

“Skin-in-the-game insurance” is becoming the norm, says Kaiser Family Foundation CEO Drew Altman, referring to the higher percentage of health care costs employees have to share.

Deductibles will keep going up as companies try to keep their own health care costs down by raising the amount of cost-sharing workers have to bear, says Gary Claxton, a Kaiser Family Foundation vice president who co-authored the annual study.

That’s another time-tested Big Government scam: hitting people with costs from all different directions, hiding the tax and regulatory burden behind a blizzard of invoices.  We’re not getting one jacked-up bill for ObamaCare – the costs are spread out, diffused, re-distributed, and spinnable.  The many “losers” in the scheme aren’t supposed to realize just how badly they’re getting rooked, while the small number of designated “winners” know exactly who to thank for their benefits, and get 99 percent of the media attention.

There’s no longer any way to hide how ObamaCare forces tyrannical central control down the throats of Americans, without regard to their individual consciences.  The Government Accountability Office just released a report making it clear that, despite Barack Obama’s lies, his health-care scheme most certainly does force Americans to subsidize abortion.  Unsurprisingly, there was a complete and absolute mainstream-media blackout on this report – you’ll have more luck finding anti-Putin stories in the Russian state-run press – but that just goes to show how the Left underestimates the sincerity of pro-lifers.  Obama and his sycophants think the pro-life cause is some kind of boutique issue, like getting the Washington Redskins to change their name – a fun little diversion that lets enthusiasts vent some steam and posture as morally superior, but not a truly serious commitment.  That’s why Obama thought he could disarm the abortion issue with a phony “executive order” in 2010, and nobody would really follow up to see what actually happened.  And that’s why Obama’s loyal courtiers in the mainstream press thought they could keep pro-lifers from finding out by “forgetting” to report on the GAO’s findings.

Fox News, of course, did see fit to inform viewers about the report:

Last year, a group of eight Republican House members, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, requested that the GAO conduct a review of how insurance companies are handling abortion coverage under the health care law.

In its report, the GAO found that 23 states restrict how insurance plans offered in the ObamaCare exchanges may include abortion as a benefit, and 28 (including the District of Columbia) do not. The GAO then surveyed 18 insurance providers within the 28 states that do not restrict abortion coverage to determine how the coverage is being handled.

According to the GAO, 17 of the 18 providers surveyed said they were not billing policyholders separately for the abortion coverage.

 “(The insurance providers) did not itemize the premium amount associated with non-excepted abortion services coverage on enrollees’ bills nor indicate that they send a separate bill for that premium amount,” the report said.

The remaining insurance provider told the GAO that their policyholders receive a separate charge on their bills “for coverage of services for which member subsidies may not be used.”

This news will not rest easily in the ears of people who already noticed that the People’s Glorious Five-Year HealthCare Plan is so fundamentally incompatible with American principles of religious liberty that celibate nuns must be forced to pay for birth control, or else face the wrath of a far more energetic White House offensive than anything they’re planning to throw at ISIS.  Obama tried to slip past the abortion issue with simple tricks and nonsense in 2009 and 2010 because he doesn’t think anyone is really serious about opposing the abortion agenda, at least not serious enough to mount effective resistance to the biggest, most expensive new government program in generations.

ObamaCare is still killing jobs, as new reports from the Federal Reserve system make clear… and that’s before the small-business mandates actually come crashing down.  Fox News has another bit of bad news the rest of the media doesn’t seem eager to dwell upon, even though it’s a $22 billion bombshell:

Health economist John Goodman noted that “three Federal Reserve Banks in Philadelphia, New York and Atlanta have surveyed the folks in their area and roughly one fifth of the employers are saying they cut back on employment.

“Roughly one fifth are saying they’re moving from full time to part time,” Goodman added. “More than one in ten are saying they’re doing more outsourcing – all this because of the new health care reform.”

Doug Holtz-Eakin, former Director of the Congressional Budget Office, said “for the smaller employers — those that have between 20 and 49 employees — you get a negative impact on jobs, you get a negative impact on wages in those jobs. What this means for small business as a whole is over $22 billion of earnings gone for their workers and 350,000 jobs.”

Small business is responsible for the vast majority of job creation in the U.S.

The president repeatedly has delayed the mandate requiring businesses with more than 50 employees to provide insurance. But businesses know it’s coming, so many avoid hiring to keep their worker rolls below 50.

Also, the mandate applies only to those who work more than 30 hours a week — an incentive for employers to reduce hours.

There’s even a word for people who get their hours cut to keep them under the 30-hour ObamaCare threshold: “twenty-niners.”  Writing at the Wall Street Journal, University of Chicago economist Casey B. Mulligan foresees an economic impact that will run into the hundreds of billions of dollars, and that’s just lost income and productivity incidentally wiped out by ObamaCare, on top of its explicit and hidden direct costs:

I estimate that the ACA’s long-term impact will include about 3% less weekly employment, 3% fewer aggregate work hours, 2% less GDP and 2% less labor income. These effects will be visible and obvious by 2017, if not before. The employment and hours estimates are based on the combined amount of the law’s new taxes and disincentives and on historical research on the aggregate effects of each dollar of taxation. The GDP and income estimates reflect lower amounts of labor as well as the law’s effects on the productivity of each hour of labor.

By the end of this decade, nearly 20 million additional Americans will have health insurance as a consequence of the law. But the ultimate economywide cost of their enrollments will be at least double what it would have been if these people had enrolled without government carrots and sticks; that is, if they had decided it was worth spending their own money on health insurance. In effect, people who aren’t receiving assistance through the ACA are paying twice for the law: once as the total economic pie gets smaller and again as they receive a smaller piece.

The Affordable Care Act is weakening the economy. And for the large number of families and individuals who continue to pay for their own health care, health care is now less affordable.

The name of the game, as mentioned above with respect to the abortion controversy, is resistance.  The Left understands the inertia of Big Govenrment very well.  Once a program of this magnitude has been dumped on us, it becomes a fortress, with battlements manned by its beneficiaries and profiteers.  It takes very heavy odds to successfully storm a fortress; outnumbered defenders can hold out for a long time.  That’s why ObamaCare defenders don’t think all this bad news matters too much, as long as the media keeps a lid on it, and doesn’t create a narrative about a massive voter uprising against the system.  As long as a preference cascade of people unhappy about ObamaCare can be prevented – the phenomenon in which those who resist a system portrayed as unbreakable suddenly realize that a lot of other people feel the same way they do, so resistance is not as futile as they have been led to believe – it doesn’t really matter if the losers greatly outnumber winners.  The question is no longer whether Americans like ObamaCare, or even if a majority dislikes it, or even if people complain about lost medical treatments from the edges of the media spotlight.  What matters is whether a significant number of people are prepared to fight it.  The people who persuaded you to accept Obama’s economy as the New Normal are not impressed with your fighting spirit.


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