President Obama is planning to break the law, once again, in an effort to protect vulnerable Democrats in the Senate. According to news reports, “the White House will announce a new directive allowing insurers to continue offering health plans that do not meet Obamacare’s minimum coverage requirements.” In the absence of this “directive,” health insurance companies would have to cancel millions of health policies just a few weeks before November’s congressional elections. Obama’s edict would theoretically forestall, until after those crucial midterms, a tsunami of voter outrage that would inevitably drown the reelection prospects of many Democrats.
The Right Prescription
Buried beneath the avalanche of recent news reports about the latest Obamacare-mandated funding cuts to the Medicare Advantage (MA) program is a related but far more disturbing story — the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has taken a major step toward rationing medications to the elderly. Since passage of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, seniors enrolled in the Medicare prescription drug program have been guaranteed access to “all or substantially all” of the drugs in several classes of pharmaceuticals. President Obama’s health care bureaucrats, however, have proposed removing three of these classes from the “protected” list.
Earlier this year, the New York Post wrote this about people who get their health insurance through the small-group market: “The 5 million-plus Americans who’ve seen their health plans canceled thanks to ObamaCare will be joined by millions more this year — because the Affordable Care Act makes their employer-provided policies illegal, as well.”
My fellow employees and I at the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) are among those millions. In mid-January, we each received a letter from our insurer, Kaiser Permanente, informing us “that because the plan currently offered by your employer does not include certain benefits now required under [ObamaCare], it will not be available at the time of your 2014 renewal.”
When I showed this letter to our president, David Ridenour, he replied, “You know, since we have less than 50 employees, this gives me an incentive to just drop our insurance and let you all go on the exchange.”
Samuel Butler once observed, “The most important service rendered by the press and the magazines is that of educating people to approach printed matter with distrust.” Anyone who wishes to confirm the accuracy of Butler’s assessment of the Fourth Estate need look no further than its Orwellian coverage of the recent report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concerning the economic effects of Obamacare.
According to the CBO report, “reduced incentives to work attributable to the Affordable Care Act” will cause a “decline in the number of full-time-equivalent [FTE] workers of about 2.0 million in 2017.” Translated from the argot of the government bureaucrat into plain English, this means that Obamacare will destroy the financial benefits of productive employment for a number of Americans equal to the population of Nevada.
The most frequently repeated Democrat talking point concerning Republican opposition to Obamacare is the claim that the GOP has offered no alternative. This is nonsense, of course, but it has proved an effective device for suppressing a serious debate about the President’s “signature legislative achievement.” Predictably, Obama offered yet another variation on the theme during his recent State of the Union message: “I don’t expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law.… So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, and increase choice — tell America what you’d do differently.”
Last week, Moody’s rating agency lowered the outlook for health insurers from stable to negative, blaming Obamacare. Few Americans will shed tears for insurance companies. But the Moody’s announcement is a warning sign to taxpayers. They’ll be getting clobbered. Section 1342 of the Affordable Care Act forces taxpayers to make insurers whole for most of the losses incurred selling Obamacare exchange plans through 2016. The bailout is designed to conceal the failure of the president’s signature health law until he is out of office.
No one in the Obama administration talked up the advantages of bailing out insurers. It was kept under wraps until the fall of 2013. That’s when five to six million health plans were canceled because they didn’t comply with Obamacare’s one-size-fits-all-coverage requirements effective January 1, 2014. Insurers developed new plans, as the health law required, set premiums (generally higher) and sent out notices canceling the old plans.
We don’t know if Jeff Bezos laughed aloud when Ezra Klein, one of his star bloggers at the Washington Post, pitched an idea for a new website and asked for an eight-figure check to get it off the ground. We do know that Bezos decided to let him to seek investors elsewhere: “We regret to announce that Ezra Klein, Melissa Bell and Dylan Matthews are leaving The Post for a new venture.” Information about this “new venture” is pretty scarce, but it allegedly involves a foray into “explanatory journalism.”
Well, our progressive friends are once again calling for single payer health care. The ironic pretext this time is that Obamacare has collapsed into chaos. The health care “reform” law they assured us would cure the ills of our medical delivery system is disintegrating before their eyes. But the advocates of the “Affordable Care Act,” as these people stubbornly refer to it, refuse to accept that the crackup was caused by the inevitable incompetence of government bureaucrats. They believe the real problem was avaricious insurance executives.
Political parties’ real electoral danger isn’t overwhelmingly negative public opinion, but opinion clearly and consistently negative. The reason is obvious: Political parties are neither stupid enough — nor long survive — taking hugely unpopular positions. The bad news is Obamacare looks to be the kind of clearly and consistently negative issue that leaves the administration and Democrats damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.
The political landscape clearly shows political parties are more likely to face political difficulties from issues that decidedly and consistently run against them. Most contentious issues exist and persist with both parties hovering around majority support for their stances. The environment, tax, and spending — among others — all devolve into stances that leave each party near victory.
In 2014, millions of Americans -- possibly 25-30 million -- who have employer-provided health insurance will lose it thanks to Obamacare’s requirement that all plans cover what Washington deems “essential benefits.” Some employers will consider that unaffordable and drop coverage altogether when their current, less costly plans expire sometime this year. These new victims of Obamacare are in addition to the 6 million who bought plans in the individual market and had them canceled as of January 1.
The plight of those 6 million made headline news and caused the first cracks in the Democratic Party’s support for the law. The coming wave of workplace cancellations will force Democrats to defend a law that will likely harm twice as many people as it helps.
That’s right. Twice as many probably will lose coverage in 2014 as will gain it.
The Congressional Budget Office projects 16 million will gain coverage through the law’s Medicaid expansion and subsidized exchange plans. That’s a best case scenario, rosier than the enrollment figures we’ve seen so far, but still half the number losing coverage.