The Corner

True to Form

The implementation of Obamacare was designed with a political calendar in mind. It puts off the launch of many of its most unpopular provisions until after the 2012 elections, to avoid complicating the president’s message with the reality of the horrendous legislation he pushed through. But one exception to that rule has long perplexed those who looked at the implementation schedule of the law: The cuts to reimbursement rates in the Medicare Advantage program (essentially imposing stricter price controls on the one element of Medicare that includes some degree of competition) would take effect next year, which means that seniors making their coverage choices this fall will see the effects of those cuts, which they won’t like one bit. In fact, since the enrollment period for the program starts on October 15, those seniors will get that bad news just a few weeks before the election. Will the administration really let them find out what’s coming before rather than after they vote?

 

As it turns out, the answer is no. As Benjamin Sasse and Charles Hurt point out in today’s New York Post, the White House has found a way around the problem of citizens finding out what’s in Obamacare too soon:

It’s hard to imagine a bigger electoral disaster for a president than seniors in crucial states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio discovering that he’s taken away their beloved Medicare Advantage just weeks before an election.

 

This political ticking time bomb could become the biggest “October Surprise” in US political history.

 

But the administration’s devised a way to postpone the pain one more year, getting Obama past his last election; it plans to spend $8 billion to temporarily restore Medicare Advantage funds so that seniors in key markets don’t lose their trusted insurance program in the middle of Obama’s re-election bid.

 

The money is to come from funds that Health and Human Services is allowed to use for “demonstration projects.” But to make it legal, HHS has to pretend that it’s doing an “experiment” to study the effect of this money on the insurance market.

 

That is, to “study” what happens when the government doesn’t change anything but merely continues a program that’s been going on for years.

Yet another item for the “shocking but not surprising” list. 

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.

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