Months after the White House dismissed insurers concerns about the functionality of the federal Obamacare exchange, Healthcare.gov, the Obama Administration is now reaching out to them for input to get it back on track before the self-imposed November 30 deadline:
The White House is increasing its reliance on insurers by accepting their technical help in efforts to repair the problem-ridden online health insurance marketplace and prioritizing consumers’ ability to buy plans directly from the carriers.
The Obama administration’s broader cooperation with insurers is a tacit acknowledgment that the federal insurance exchange — fraught with software and hardware flaws that have frustrated many Americans trying to buy coverage — might not be working smoothly by the target date of Nov. 30, according to several health experts familiar with the administration’s thinking.
The October jobs report surprised analysts, many of whom thought that the government shutdown would have a negative impact on the economy. Not only were 204,000 jobs added last month, the two previous months were revised upward by 60,000.
The bad news is that the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 7.3%, as did the U-6 unemployment rate, now at 13.8%. The worse news is that number of workers not in the labor force exploded by 932,000 in October, according to Zero Hedge, bringing the labor participation rate to 62.8%. Not only is this the lowest rate since the aftermath of the 2007-2008 recession, it’s the lowest since 1978.
The Employment Policy Institute (EPI), a leftist think tank, offered a rather grim take on the jobs report and the long-term outlook.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has been talking tough lately about the problems with Obamacare, going so far to offer legislation that would mitigate some of the insurance cancellations letters Americans are receiving that are a direct result of the law.
But Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), her likely Republican opponent, isn’t going to let Louisianans forget that Landrieu backed Obamacare and that she ostensibly lied by repeating President Obama’s infamous promise — that Americans could keep their health plan, if they liked it — when the bill was in the Senate in 2009. His campaign has released a new ad that ties Landrieu to the cancellation notices and President Obama.
“As the deciding vote for Obamacare, Mary Landrieu is in a panic, not for you, but for her own political career. Typical Washington politician,” says the narrator. “Now show she says she wants to stop the healthcare cancellations, but the damage is done, and she caused it. Landrieu and Obama think they know better than you, and when they choose, you lose.”
“Even some Washington Democrats are calling Obamacare a ‘train wreck,’ but not Senator Landrieu. She’s proud of being the deciding vote to pass Obamacare,” Cassidy says in the ad.
A day after meeting with President Barack Obama to voice concerns over the implementation of Obamacare, two more Democratic senators signed on as co-sponsors to measure sponsored by Sen. Marie Landrieu (D-LA) that would mitigate the effects of the law.
Landrieu introduced the Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act last week, telling her colleagues that the legislation would ”help anywhere from 5 to 7 million people who are getting notices in the mail every day.” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined the effort.
On the same day that President Obama apologized to Americans who believed him when he said that they could keep their health plans, Sens. Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Mark Pryor (D-AK) announced that they had co-sponsored the measure.
“North Carolinians deserve health care that works. An apology is only helpful if it is followed by direct and meaningful action to get the Affordable Care Act working, which is why I’ve pushed to extend the open enrollment deadline and am supporting a bill that would allow people to keep their current plans,” said Hagan in a statement from her office. “The administration should join these efforts to fix the problems.”
Hagan also said that she expressed “deep frustration” to President Obama during his recent meeting with Senate Democrats about the problems with the federal exchange website and the need for accountability and transparency.
President Barack Obama told Americans on at least three dozen occasions between 2009 and October 2013 that if they liked their health plan, they could keep under his healthcare reform law. Though he’s recently tried to revise history by lying about the lie, there was never any hint of ambiguity or nuance at any time he repeated promise.
But during the 2010 healthcare summit with members of Congress, he was pressed on the issue by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), who cited estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that up to 9 million Americans would lose their health plans because of Obamacare. President Obama admitted that Cantor was right, but insisted that Americans would find a “better deal” on the exchanges.
“The CBO sent a letter, I think it was to Leader Reid, about the Senate bill, and in that letter it suggested that between 8 million and 9 million people may very well lose the coverage they have because of this, because of the construct of this bill,” Cantor told President Obama during the 2010 healthcare summit. “That’s our concern.”
“Because I don’t think you can answer the question in the positive to say that people will be able to maintain their coverage, people will be able to see the doctors they want, in the kind of bill that you are proposing,” he added.
The weekend before the House of Representatives plan to vote on legislation that would give Americans the choice to keep their health plans, Republicans used their weekly address to discuss insurance cancellations caused by Obamacare and to promote the Keep Your Plan Act.
Rep. Todd Young (R-IN), who was tasked with giving the address this week, read some examples of heartbreaking stories his offices has received from constituents who have seen their health plans canceled and noted the financial impact the law is having on their families.
“Mike from Bloomington wrote in to say that the plan he has now – which he likes – is being canceled at the end of the year. This, of course, is exactly what the president and other champions of the law promised would not happen,” said Young. “Mike’s new plan will cost him $900 more a month.”
“And there’s Marvin from Bloomington, who shared with me this cancelation notice his wife, Kathy, received. To avoid a lapse in coverage, she must sign up for a new plan,” he noted. “I held up this letter last week at a hearing with the Medicare administrator responsible for the exchange. Her suggestion was that Marvin and Kathy go to the website.”
This couple, the Indiana Republican said, woke up in the middle to the night to try to get on the federal Obamacare exchange to no avail. They gave up after a month of trying to get through the glitchy website, and will now pay more for a health plan outside of the exchange.
“This is what betrayal looks like,” he said. “Here you have hardworking people who were repeatedly told not to worry, that their coverage would stay the same and — if anything — their costs would go down. Just the opposite is happening.”
President Barack Obama has tried to reframe the narrative on his fledgling healthcare reform law by claiming that insurance companies offered lackluster health plans that didn’t cover much, leaving many Americans underinsured.
His administration’s paternalistic answer to this was to require that all insurance companies certain benefits, writing “grandfathered plan” regulations so strictly, that, eventually, all plans would meet the law’s requirements. Which is why millions of Americans are losing their current health insurance coverage, proving that President Obama lied when he said Americans could keep their plan under the law.
It’s true that 16% of Americans are underinsured, roughly 30 million people. But Obamacare’s minimum coverage requirements, coupled with the grandfather regulations, will cause some 93 million people to lose or see disruptions in their coverage, making these regulations unnecessarily broad.
Even people with very good, comprehensive health insurance plans are losing their coverage, forcing them to purchase an expensive, government-approved plan from the health insurance exchange. That’s something that two supporters of President Obama recently learned.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has announced that the House of Representatives will vote next week on a measure that would allow Americans to keep their health insurance coverage amid a flood millions of cancellation notices.
“Next week, the House will consider the Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013, sponsored by @RepFredUpton,” Cantor tweeted on Wednesday, later promoting a tweet from the House Energy and Commerce Committee that said the measure “will allow health care plans currently being offered to continue next year, providing choices [and] peace of mind.”
The Keep Your Health Plan Act, H.R. 3350, seeks to stem the insurance cancellations that many Americans are now experiencing because the plans weren’t compliant with the Obamacare’s very strict “grandfathered plan” regulations. The bill currently has 88 co-sponsors, all of whom are Republicans.
Regardless of how one may feel about grassroots, Tea Party-driven efforts to defund or delay Obamacare, vulnerable Senate Democrats who have doubled down on the law by voting against these efforts can’t say they weren’t warned.
The horribly botched rollout and implementation efforts and wave of insurance cancellation letters their constituents are receiving has many of them fretting that their support of Obamacare could come back to haunt them when they stand for re-election next year. Which is why some are adopting the very same ideas, such as a delay of the individual mandate, advanced by conservatives and the Tea Party to mitigate the impact of the law.
To this development, Jenny Beth Martin, founder of a grassroots conservative activist group, is telling those Senate Democrats, “Welcome to the tea party.”
Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, pointed to a recent letter from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to President Obama in which she urged a delay of the individual mandate. That letter was subsequently endorsed by several Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2014, including Sens. Mark Begich (D-AK), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Mark Pryor (D-AR).
Labor leaders have been up in arms over Obamacare because of the impact the law would have on the special type of health insurance plans, regulated under the Taft-Hartley Act, that currently cover their members. While they’ve also complained that employers are cutting hours to avoid the law’s employer mandate, the threat to these plans was their central complaint.
Leaders, including James Hoffa of the Teamsters and Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, urged a fix that would allow union members to receive the same tax subsidies that some Americans who purchase on the exchanges to mitigate or eliminate the impact that the law would have on these plans.
But weeks after the labor leaders were turned down, the Department of Health and Human Services issued rules that appears to have partially reversed course, exempting these plans from the law’s reinsurance fee in 2015 and 2016:
Buried in rules issued last week is the disclosure that the administration will propose exempting “certain self-insured, self-administered plans” from the law’s temporary reinsurance fee in 2015 and 2016.