November 10 2013

President Obama to Formerly Evil Insurance Companies: HELP!

Charlotte Hays

Let me get this straight: first, President Obama spends five years trashing the insurance companies. Now, his administration is relying on these very companies to fix the disastrous HealthCare.gov. Has he no shame? Don’t answer that.

The Washington Post reports:

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 insurance companies—like would-be consumers—won’t be able to access the federal website that calculates subsidies. An idea in circulation is that HHS could approve a method for the companies to calculate the subsidies. The companies are asking that, if they find that the subsidies are smaller than what they computed, they not be required to pay the money back to the government. Anybody smell potential for abuse here?

This new effort to get insurance companies involved to fix what HHS couldn’t do in three years reportedly is designed to stave off moves in Congress to delay the deadline on buying coverage. The Washington Post story notes:

Such delays are anathema to the insurance industry, whose leaders have warned that companies would end up with mainly sicker people signing up early on.

Washington Post columnist Dan Balz regards the president’s recent apology that so many people are losing their health insurance, contrary to what he repeatedly promised would happen, as genuinely contrite. To me it sounded lawyerly and forced. But Balz nails the predicament in which the president finds himself:

[President Obama] decided to risk enactment of comprehensive health-care reform along strictly partisan lines because he concluded there might not be another chance in his presidency to do what one after another of his predecessors had failed to do. He may have been correct that this was his best opportunity, but it was a big bet with long-term consequences. At the same time, he made claims about the new law, selling-points designed as part of a political sales job, that have been called into question, compounding his problems.

Called into question doesn't quite cover it, but Balz is right that this is crunch time for the Obama administration and the Democrats.

Does anybody in the administration have a sinking feeling that a mammoth piece of legislation—the Affordable Care Act—rushed through Congress, unread, on a one-party vote might have been the worst possible way to reform the healthcare system? We may be seeing damage from ObamaCare for a long time, unless this law is repealed before it harms too many of us.

 

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