There are days when you absolutely have to feel sorry for President Obama’s press secretary Jay Carney – those days when he is pressed to defend the indefensible.
Yesterday, the White House spokesman did his level best to explain that no, allowing people to hold onto their existing insurance policies for another two years was not politically motivated but, instead, another sign that the Obama administration just wanted what was best for everybody. Does Carney still have the capacity to blush?
As President Obama continues to take a meat cleaver to the shriveled carcass that is Obamacare, he puts the viability of the program in ever-greater danger. Allowing individuals to keep their “sub-standard” policies through 2016 may dilute the crushing criticism of the Affordable Care Act that is raining about the heads of vulnerable Democrats in Congress, but it further skews the federal insurance exchanges towards the sick and elderly, compromising the program’s sustainability.
The sign-ups for the exchanges were already shaky, hence the administration’s ongoing campaign to encourage the young and healthy to overpay for policies they do not need. The White House has said that to keep premiums at current levels, about 40 percent of the sign-ups must be in the 18-34 year-old category. The most recent estimate is that roughly 25 percent of the enrollees are in that magic low-cost bracket.
The administration also snuck into the latest-re-do an important carve-out for their friends in organized labor. Unions frequently self-insure; in the most recent rule upheaval these policies (and not all self-insured groups) are exempted from high fees dictated by Obamacare. Thank heavens; Big Labor has been protected.
Mr. Obama’s motivation is undeniably political; even The New York Times describes the extension as averting “political damage to Democrats in this year’s midterm elections.” The HHS admitted the plan was crafted “in close consultation with members of Congress” for heaven’s sake – even naming some who, like Mary Landrieu, are particularly fragile.
As the Obamacare dust storm spreads, the Senate increasingly looks to be up for grabs. Republicans are optimistic that they may win the six seats they need to control the Democrat-controlled upper house, with
It is not only the midterm outcomes, though, that the president is now eyeing- but also the presidential race in 2016. By allowing people to keep existing plans through 2016, Mr. Obama is hoping that his bold-faced claim that “if you like your health insurance you can keep it,” won’t continue to be the GOP’s best-ever election-year slogan. There’s nothing like millions of policy cancellations to further sour the public on Big Government and the Democrat brand. Nothing could better guarantee endless re-runs of Harry Reid’s preposterous denial of all the “horror stories” about Obamacare.
Mr. Reid might want to conduct an exit interview with Gary Cohen, who is leaving his post as architect of the unsound federal marketplace. In announcing his departure, the former Obamacare apparatchik said the policy extensions were meant to help those who “felt that the cost of moving into a new plan was going to be prohibitive…” Say what? Higher cost insurance? What ever happened to the Affordable part of the Affordable Care Act?
The New York Times reports that Mr. Cohen addressed insurers’ concerns by saying that the “administration would spend more than originally estimated to compensate insurers for financial losses they might experience as a result of the president’s transition policy.” In other words, taxpayers will be on the hook for the White House’s political ploy.
At some point – maybe next year, in spite of all the adjustments and extensions -- the White House will have to confront the economic shortcomings of the Affordable Care Act. If not enough young people sign up, insurance premiums will soar. If insurers take a bath on these policies they sell on the exchanges, the federal government will have to step in and make them whole. These outcomes will likely not emerge between now and the midterms, but you can be sure they will be visible by November 2016.
What else can go wrong? We’ll still have tens of millions without health insurance; one estimate puts that figure at the end of this year at 45 million. Please remind me – why have the people of the United States suffered the uncertainty, the budget costs, the higher premiums, the job losses and political stalemate provoked by Obamacare? Let’s hope voters ask the same question in 2016.
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