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

Another Round of Obamacare Train Wrecks



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Behold, America, the efficient and well-oiled machine that is our nation’s health-care system under Obamacare!

In Texas:

Sheila Lawless is the office manager at a small rheumatology practice in Wichita Falls, Texas, about two hours outside of Dallas. She makes sure everything in the office runs smoothly — scheduling patients, collecting payments, keeping the lights on. Recently she added another duty — incorporating the trickle of patients with insurance plans purchased on the new Affordable Care Act exchanges.

. . . It’s presented a major challenge: verifying that these patients have insurance. Each exchange patient has required the practice to spend an hour or more on the phone with the insurance company. “We’ve been on hold for an hour, an hour and 20, an hour and 45, been disconnected, have to call back again and repeat the process,” she explains. Those sorts of hold times add up fast.

A big issue is whether the patients have actually paid their first month’s premium; the New York Times reported earlier this month that “one in five people who signed up for health insurance under the new health care law failed to pay their premiums on time and therefore did not receive coverage in January,” citing insurance companies and industry experts.

In Illinois, workers’ hours are dropping dramatically — almost as if a new law had given employers a major incentive to have employees working less than 30 hours a week!

In fact, average work hours increased slightly in two of these sectors between 2008 and 2010. But all three sectors (retail trade, food and beverage, and general merchandise) saw dramatic reductions in average work hours after ObamaCare was enacted.

Illinois is far from a unique example. This disturbing trend is becoming more apparent nationally, as well.

Retail employment, which makes up almost one-tenth of the nation’s total nonfarm employment, is seeing similar reductions. In 12 of the 14 states including Illinois where average weekly hours worked are available, non-supervisor workers in the retail trade showed average annual declines in hours worked between 2011 and 2013. In fact, six states saw average hours worked fall to 30 hours or below for that sector.

In Hawaii, the state has spent roughly $27,000 per enrollment.

Yet four months after enrollments began, the Hawaii Health Connector has allocated $120 million while signing up only about 4,300 people for health plans — fewer than any other state. Despite officials’ initial hopes of enrolling tens of thousands of Hawaiians, only 400 employers have applied for plans for their employees.

Maryland looks on in envy at a barely used state exchange that generally works:

Maryland has fired the contractor that built its expensive online health insurance marketplace, which has so many structural defects that officials say the state might have to abandon all or parts of the system.

The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange voted late Sunday to terminate its $193 million contract with Noridian Healthcare Solutions.

But perhaps Maryland’s mess looks good compared to Oregon, where the accusations of lying are piling up:

Carolyn Lawson, the IT expert who tried and failed to build Oregon’s online insurance exchange, complained to an Oregon Health Authority official that she was forced to leave under false pretenses in an email uncovered by the On Your Side Investigators.

Lawson emailed OHA chief operating officer Suzanne Hoffman in January to complain that a reporter had been given her personal cell phone number, and asked that the state “allow me to move on with privacy and grace,” after one of the worst health-care-exchange website launches in the nation left her career in tatters.

“I have done everything I have been asked to do,” Lawson wrote. “I stuck to the talking points even though I protested . . . that they were not accurate. I walked away quietly when asked to resign. I wrote the resignation letter per the script I was given.”



KATU Investigators recently uncovered major accountability issues on Lawson’s watch, and former Republican state representative Patrick Sheehan told KATU earlier this month that he’d gone to the FBI with allegations Cover Oregon project managers initiated the design of dummy web pages to convince the federal government the project was further along than it actually was.

Sure, most Americans say the law hasn’t affected their lives yet. But among those who have, more say the impact is negative:

While most Americans (54 percent) continue to say they haven’t been impacted by the law one way or another, the share saying they’ve been negatively affected has inched up in recent months (29 percent in February, up from 23 percent last October) and continues to outpace the share saying they’ve personally benefited from the law (17 percent).

And evidence continues to mount that the uninsured have a remarkably resilient capacity to tune out news, information, and details of a massive, complicated piece of legislation that overhauled the entire health-care system in the name of helping them get insurance:

The vast majority of uninsured Americans do not know they must sign up for health insurance by March 31 or pay a fine, according to a new poll.

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), in its monthly tracking survey, found that 76 percent of the uninsured are not aware of the looming sign-up deadline.


Tags: Obamacare


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