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Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

The Week So Far: A Dagwood Sandwich of Bad News for Obamacare



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Today’s Morning Jolt is just a Dagwood sandwich of bad news for Obamacare, piled higher and higher:

A Bad Day, Even by the Standards of Obamacare’s Bad Days

President Obama probably can’t wait to get away on that 17–day vacation. Because Obamacare just continues to careen from “success” to “success”:

Some frustrated consumers are sending premium payments to insurers who have never heard of them. Others say they will pass up federal subsidies and pay full price through insurers, while still others have given up altogether on the promise of health insurance by Jan. 1.

Consternation and confusion over applications sent through the federal HealthCare.gov website continue into the last seven days before the Dec. 23 enrollment deadline. Consumers with health issues are particularly nervous about the prospect of not having insurance at the start of the new year. Federal assurances last week about a “special enrollment period” for people whose applications have been hung up on the site are little comfort as neither insurers nor consumers have any idea how this will work and who will qualify.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends people call its help line with questions and concerns about applications on HealthCare.gov. But that suggestion is also proving less than helpful for many.

. . . “Logic tells you I’m the target population for the law,” said Nelson, a Lombard, Ill., resident and Affordable Care Act supporter. But when people seek help from the call center, “you’re just being shuffled back and forth nobody owns the callers.”

Experts are divided on another possible solution for those hanging in the balance: sending premium payments before bills arrive from insurers.

Sentara Health, which offers the Optima health insurance plans for Virginia on HealthCare,gov, is hanging onto payments it can’t match with new customers yet. But Aetna warns that consumers should wait until they get a bill in the mail before writing any checks.

That’s a heck of a strategy for getting insurance: “Pay and pray.”

Oh, hey, more bad information on the sites, too:

In the latest round of difficulties with Obamacare in Wisconsin, plans offered by at least three insurers temporarily disappeared from the online insurance marketplace last week.

Before they came off the federal HealthCare.gov website for about a day, some of the plans from one company posted incorrect information about deductibles, according to the insurer.

Oh, hey, more sudden resignations of state directors:

MNsure’s top official resigned Tuesday following a Watchdog Minnesota Bureau report that she took a two-week Costa Rica vacation in late November, during the rocky rollout of the state $150 million health insurance exchange.

April Todd-Malmlov‘s abrupt resignation came during a closed emergency session of the agency’s board of directors. Subsequent reports revealed that Todd-Malmlov was accompanied on her tropical getaway by Jim Golden, Minnesota’s Medicaid director, raising possible conflict of interest and other concerns.

Oh, hey, more broken promises of imminent fixes:

Private health insurance exchanges still are not able to directly enroll consumers in subsidized health plans offered through Obamacare even though the government has said problems doing so should have been cleared up weeks ago.

Executives from three online health exchanges that contract with both insurance companies and government agencies to enroll consumers eligible for federal subsidies in marketplace plans say the process still isn’t ready to go and that more work remains.

This despite several promises from government officials that technical fixes have been made to allow for business to be conducted on those sites, which are alternatives to the troubled HealthCare.gov website and health exchanges sites run by states.

And Maryland may have to scrap its state exchange entirely:

The pace of enrollments is still far too low. If the exchange is able to replicate its best weekday and weekend performance during every one of the 104 days between now and the end of the open enrollment period on March 31, Maryland will still only achieve about three-quarters of its goal of signing up 150,000 people with private coverage. The site may be better, but better isn’t good enough.

Under those circumstances, the question raised by Rep. John Delaney, a Montgomery County Democrat, about whether it would be better for Maryland to scrap its effort to build its own exchange and instead join the federal one has merit. Indeed, Gov. Martin O’Malley acknowledged on Monday that the option — and all others — remain on the table.

That’s a hard possibility for Governor O’Malley to acknowledge. Under his leadership, Maryland was one of the most aggressive states in the effort to build out its own exchange — a strategic decision that appears in retrospect to have involved no small amount of hubris and political ambition. Walking away now from all that effort and tens of millions in expenditures would be particularly embarrassing.

But other than all that, Obamacare had an okay Tuesday.

Nah, I’m just kidding. There’s more bad news.


Tags: Obamacare , Maryland , Minnesota


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