Recent Obamacare enrollment numbers were bad news for the Obama Administration, no matter how desperately the they tried to spin it. While it’s true that there was a surge in selected plans in December, though still far below anticipated numbers, the percentage of 18-to-34 year-olds is far too low for the law to be sustainable.
With a little over two months left in the open enrollment period, the administration is now gearing up its efforts to sell Obamacare to this group of people on whom the success of the law depends.
But would it be advantageous for young people to sign-up for a government-approved Obamacare health insurance plan? A new study from the American Action Forum state the case that most young people would be better off avoiding Obamacare.
“Recently released data from the Department of Health and Human Services on the breakdown of enrollee age shows young adults make up only 24 percent of total enrollment through December 28, 2013—well below the administration’s target level of 39 percent,” wrote Conor Ryan and Chris Holt of the American Action Forum, a conservative think tank.
“The ACA’s perverse economic incentives are well documented. The law makes health insurance more expensive for many young adults, while at the same time making the decision to go without health coverage exponentially less risky than it previously was,” the two analysts noted. “It is impossible to predict how many young adults will ultimately enroll in coverage, but it is clear that many young adult enrollees will be worse off financially if they decide to purchase health insurance.”
Media icon Barbara Walters recently confessed that she and so many of her liberal ilk truly thought that Obama would be the next messiah, and that their hopes and dreams in that regard have been shattered by the utter fecklessness and incompetence of this administration in executing even the most basic of governing functions.
Yet, the complete overhaul of a massive, complex health care/insurance system that makes up nearly a fifth of the domestic economy is no simple task, and as Obama and his brain trust in D.C. have discovered (long after the rest of us), buying health insurance is a complex undertaking.
A few months ago, Democrats played chicken with the House Republicans and forced a government shutdown rather than allow the House bill to pass, the third iteration of which would have funded Obamacare, allowed it to proceed on schedule, but simply require that all members of Congress and their staff get coverage through the ObamaCare exchanges.
Up to that point, Republicans had unsuccessfully attempted to defund the law, to delay the individual mandate for a year, and make other changes to the law. Democrats sanctimoniously declared ObamaCare to be “settled law” to which there must be no protests and strict adherence (unlike, you know, the Second Amendment, which is more than two centuries old and enshrined in the Bill of Rights, but which liberal Democrats are constantly trying to repeal).
For all of the maneuvering, attacking, and counter-attacking by Republicans, it seems now that nothing Republicans have done has been more damaging to confidence in the ObamaCare law than simply letting the implementation play out unimpeded. Each week seems to bring a new report of another aspect of the law that Obama has unilaterally changed, in defiance of the limits placed on his powers under the Constitution.
The Obama Administration’s delay of the individual mandate came as a surprise to health insurers participating in the state and federal Obamacare exchanges, according to an industry consult.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), an agency under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), made the decision after a handful of Senate Democrats, including vulnerable incumbents up for reelection next year, expressed concern about insurance cancellations. The millions of canceled health plans have created a political firestorm, in addition to the poor rollout of the federal exchange website.
Robert Laszewski, an insurance industry consult, offered some insight in a blog post on Friday in which he noted that the administration officials didn’t discuss the delay with insurers. He also wondered what other politically motivated changes insurers can expect.
“The change was made without consulting the health insurance industry and it was a surprise to them,” wrote Laszewski at his blog, Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review. “It is another Obamacare change months after their 2014 rates were set under the presumption all of these cancelled policyholders would be paying a lot more premium into the pool than they pay today.”
Mandate delayed for those with canceled health plans, administration admits coverage is unaffordable
Because of the political firestorm around the millions of health insurance cancellations caused by Obamacare, the Obama Administration will give those who’ve lost their plans a pass from the individual mandate:
The Obama administration will not require the millions of Americans who received health-insurance plan cancellation notices to purchase a new policy next year.
They’re granting those consumers an exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, a Department of Heath and Human Services spokeswoman confirmed. The mandate requires everyone to have health insurance or face a tax penalty, the greater of $95 or 1 percent of income in 2014.
The administration will also allow those consumers to sign up for catastrophic coverage. Those bare-bones plans are available to people who are under 30 or qualify for a “hardship exemption.”
The White House estimates the allowance will affect roughly 500,000 people, whom it has determined received cancellation notices but have not yet purchased a new plan. The number was released late Thursday after officials compiled data from states and insurance companies.
But the deal for consumers is yet another burden for insurers, who earlier this week went along with the White House’s request to grant leniency to consumers paying premiums in January. Consumers will now be allowed to send payments until Jan. 10 and receive coverage retroactively to Jan. 1.
If the technical problems with federal Obamacare exchange, Healthcare.gov, aren’t worked out before the end of November, as the White House and Obama Administration officials promised, then enforcement of the individual mandate may have to be delayed, says Sen. Al Franken (D-MN):
“I think then we have to consider extending the deadline for the mandate, but let’s hope that doesn’t happen,” Franken told MPR.
Franken has so far been relatively quiet about potential changes to the health-care law, but he now joins a growing group of Senate Democrats in seats that could be targeted by the GOP in 2014 who are speaking up on the issue.
While the GOP is mostly focused on winning a half dozen red states held by Democrats, there are another group of Democratic-controlled swing states and nominally blue states that have formed the second tier of GOP targets. Democrats facing reelection in these states in 2014 — Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Jeff Merkley (R-Ore.) — have pushed for changes ranging from allowing people to keep their current insurance plans to extending the open enrollment period.
Two House Democrats running for open seats — Iowa’s Bruce Braley and Michigan’s Gary Peters — also voted for a House GOP bill that would achieve the former goal.
President Barack Obama has faced an avalanche of bad numbers since the embarrassing launch of the federal Obamacare exchange website and reports of millions of insurance cancellations, but the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll has to be among the worst, if not the worst (emphasis added):
The flawed rollout of the Affordable Care Act has pushed President Obama to the lowest point of his presidency, with dwindling faith in his competence and in many of the personal attributes that have buoyed him in the past, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Opposition to the new health-care law also hit a record high in the survey, with 57 percent saying they oppose the president’s most significant domestic initiative. Forty-six percent say they are strongly against it. Just a month ago, as the enrollment period was beginning, the public was almost evenly divided in its assessments of the law.
Disapproval of Obama’s handling of the health-care law’s rollout stands at 63 percent, with a majority saying they strongly disapprove. Last month, 53 percent disapproved.
[Obama’s] overall approval rating has fallen to 42 percent, having dropped six percentage points in a month, and equals his record low in Post-ABC polls. His disapproval rating stands at 55 percent, which is the worst of his presidency. Forty-four percent say they strongly disapprove of the way he is handling his job, also the worst of his presidency.
If you were watching television or listening to the radio, both before and after the launch of the state and federal Obamacare exchanges, you may have noticed the ads promoting the law. These 30-second ads featured positive imagery of families and people doing fun activities and placed heavy emphasis on getting covered.
What you won’t hear in these ads is any mention of the individual mandate, the provision in Obamacare that requires virtually all Americans to obtain health insurance coverage. That’s something The New York Times recently noticed:
The state and federal health insurance exchanges are using all manner of humor and happy talk to sell the Affordable Care Act’s products. But the one part of the new system that they are not quick to trumpet is the financial penalty that Americans will face if they fail to buy insurance.
On state exchange websites, mention of the penalty is typically tucked away under “frequently asked questions,” if it appears at all. Television and print ads usually skip the issue, and operators of exchange telephone banks are instructed to discuss it only if asked. The federal website, now infamous for its glitches, mentions the penalty but also calls it a fee, or an Individual Shared Responsibility Payment. …
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.”
The Obama Administration has insisted that the disastrous federal Obamacare exchange website, Healthcare.gov, would be functional by the end of November. But tech workers brought in to work on the site have found new problems that they’ll have to deal with before that promise can come to pass:
[Thursday]’s “Operational Update on the Health Insurance Marketplace” was not especially good news: As capacity problems at the start of HealthCare.gov get fixed, tech workers are finding new capacity problems later in the application process — ones that, up until now, they didn’t know about.
“Essentially what is happening is people are going through the entire process,” Medicare spokeswoman Julie Bataille, who runs the daily call, told reporters. “As we have fixed certain pieces of functionality, like the account creation process, we’re seeing volume go further down the application. We’re identifying new issues that we need to be in a position to troubleshoot.”
That means that, as the HealthCare.gov team ticks items off its “punch list,” it’s also adding new ones that need to be addressed.
Bataille says that Medicare still aims to have HealthCare.gov “functioning smoothly for the vast majority of users” by the end of this month.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), the author of Obamacare who famously called the administration’s implementation efforts a “train wreck,” told a Montana-based radio station on Friday that he’s open to delaying enforcement of the individual mandate if problems with the federal exchange website aren’t resolved.
“I think it makes better sense to see how much of this can be put together, how much Humpty Dumpty can be fixed in the next month, and if it looks like Humpty Dumpty is not getting put back better together, then maybe we should start thinking about delaying the penalties,” Baucus told Scott Fredricks of NewsTalk 730.