Over at the Washington Post, Ezra Klein just published a must-read interview with Robert Laszewski, president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates. Laszewski has been viewing the Obamacare rollout from an industry persective, and the entire interview is fascinating. This part, however, stood out:
EK: So most people can’t actually buy insurance through the Web site yet, and those who can may not be sending the right data to insurers?
BL: I almost have the sense that HealthCare.gov is in de facto shutdown. Here’s why: Government has to fix the back end before the front end. The demand here is real. I don’t think anyone can dispute that millions of people want to sign up. So if they fix the front end for consumers and thousands of people or hundreds of thousands of people being enrolled before they fix the back end, we’ll have a catastrophic mess.
When insurers are getting 10 or 20 or 50 enrollments a day they can clean the errors up manually. But they can’t do that for thousands of enrollments a day. They have to automate at some point. So I think the Obama administration doesn’t want to cross the red line to shut the system down, but I think this is effectively a shutdown in which they don’t say they’ve shut it down but it basically is shut down.
A few comments: First, of course the “demand is real,” in part because Obama administration failures have artificially boosted that demand. After all, in one state alone — New Jersey — up to 800,000 citizens risk losing their existing health insurance, with hundreds of thousands already receiving their cancellation notices. In California and Florida another 460,000 customers are losing their invidual insurance plans, all because those plans don’t meet the Obama administration’s standards. That’s more than 1.2 million lost plans in just three states, and that’s not even counting the millions upon millions of uninsured individuals who now risk tax penalties if they don’t comply with the mandate.
Second, when insurers are talking about enrolling 10, 20, or 50 people a day, they’re falling well behind the curve not just on signing up the uninsured but also in signing up the previously insured. As of now, Obamacare risks increasing the number of uninsured Americans.
Third, it is imperative Republicans start hearing and communicating the very real panic that is starting to dominate households from coast-to-coast as Americans lose coverage and have either no way to replace it, or no way to replace it with a plan that’s remotely affordable. This isn’t just a policy question any longer, it’s personal. Many conservatives have a hard time adopting the rhetoric of compassion and concern that’s the coin of the realm on the Left — especially after seeing that rhetoric used to harm the very people the Left seeks to help — but it’s past time for us to be a voice for those who are losing their insurance or who stand to be fined when it’s either impossible to purchase a plan or impossible to find a plan that’s remotely affordable.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m often on our ACLJ radio show (Jay Sekulow Live). We have a huge audience on stations from coast to coast, and the calls we’re getting are deeply disturbing. What does the administration say to a middle-aged woman who’s just lost her insurance — the same insurance she’s had for years — has to spend more money for a higher-deductible plan, and can’t even complete that transaction? Spend days on the broken website, spend more than you can afford, or we’ll punish you on tax day?
If Healtchcare.gov is in a “de facto shutdown,” then so is Obamacare itself — a shutdown that can’t continue much longer without creating a moral, legal, and economic crisis.