WaPo suddenly discovers ObamaCare costs more, helps fewer than predicted
posted at 1:00 pm on December 28, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
The failure of ObamaCare’s Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan has been known for weeks, at least to readers of the Wall Street Journal and Hot Air. The Washington Post catches up to the WSJ a mere 45 days later with this report from Amy Goldstein on the failure of PECIP to attract the 375,000 people the White House and Congress claimed needed the help of subsidies to get health-care coverage. Even with the program falling 97% short of its stated goal, it’s still going to cost more than Congress allocated anyway:
An early feature of the new health-care law that allows people who are already sick to get insurance to cover their medical costs isn’t attracting as many customers as expected.
Er, that’s a rather strange understatement. The announced expectations was that it would attract 375,000 people by the end of the year. It has only 8,000 enrollees, which means it missed its mark by 97.9%. If any other major and controversial government program missed its delivery goals by 97.9%, would the Post report it in such anodyne terms? For instance, if 97.9% of a military-weapons system failed to get delivered on time, how would the Post report that? I doubt that the opening paragraph would be that “the Pentagon didn’t get as many artillery weapons as expected.”
In the meantime, in at least a few states, claims for medical care covered by the “high-risk pools” are proving very costly, and it is an open question whether the $5 billion allotted by Congress to start up the plans will be sufficient. …
In the spring, the Medicare program’s chief actuary predicted that 375,000 people would sign up for the pool plans by the end of the year. Early last month, the Health and Human Services Department reported that just 8,000 people had enrolled. HHS officials declined to provide an update, although they collect such figures monthly, because they have decided to report them on a quarterly basis.
“Like the rest of the country, we thought we’d have pretty much a stampede. That obviously hasn’t materialized,” said Michael Keough, executive director of North Carolina’s plan. With nearly 700 participants, it is among the nation’s largest so far, but it has one-third of the people expected by now.
It’s important to remember that the $5 billion allocated to PECIP was based on … nothing at all. Congress had no real evaluation of cost; they picked a number to get the bill passed while pretending that it wouldn’t increase deficits. The Medicare actuaries predicted that the $5 billion, which was supposed to float PECIP for five years, would run out at the end of one. HHS admitted that they had no idea how much PECIP would cost. And instead of acting as a buffer for those turned down by insurance companies for their pre-existing conditions, the government might have to act just like an insurer by keeping sick people out of the pool.
So, as I wrote earlier, we have
revamped one-sixth of the American economy, created new federal mandates, and created chaos in system that worked for the vast majority of Americans, just to deal with eight thousand people? Perhaps they should have tested the issue by creating the program separately first and determining whether the demand required a complete overhaul of a health-care system that mainly worked for the rest of us, instead of arrogating to themselves the task of dictating the shape of a market they clearly don’t understand.
Nice to see that the Post has caught up to the news more than six weeks later, and brought its wiffle bat to underscore its seriousness.