WaPo: Y’know, ObamaCare exchanges aren’t all that ready to go
posted at 12:01 pm on September 23, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
With just over a week to go before the individual mandate begins and Americans flood into ObamaCare exchanges to buy required health-insurance coverage, two of America’s biggest newspapers have suddenly discovered that the ACA is a disaster about to roll out across the nation. First up is the Washington Post, which notes that some exchanges aren’t close to being ready:
New health insurance marketplaces for small businesses are scheduled to open across the country next week, and while most states are ready to begin enrollment, others have fallen behind, delaying some of the savings employers were promised under Obamacare.
Amusingly, however, the Post then spends the next nine paragraphs talking about what a success the District of Columbia exchange will be. It’s true that the Post serves that community with local news, but ObamaCare isn’t a local news story, nor was its lead local. Besides, if DC couldn’t launch the nation’s smallest ObamaCare exchange successfully (with an overall population of 632,000 in a city where over 90% of residents already have health insurance), that would be the story.
Only in the 11th paragraph do we find out that neighboring Maryland has postponed rolling out its small-business exchange until March at the earliest, also delaying both subsidies and business tax credits. Premium rates rose again in the final price sheets, rather than delivering the promised downward bend in the cost curve. In the 17th paragraph, we find out that the state of Washington’s small business exchange only has one insurer — which will only cover certain geographic areas.
In the 19th paragraph, we start to hear that the federal government’s own exchanges aren’t ready to go, either:
However, this summer, officials announced that the federal government’s small business portal will not allow employers the same flexibility business owners will have in the District. For the first year, employers will have to choose a single plan for their entire company, rather than the multiple-plan option lawmakers envisioned.
More importantly, software glitches on the federal exchange are making it difficult for the Web site to “reliably determine how much people need to pay for coverage,” according to a report last week by The Wall Street Journal.
In response, Joel Ario, a former HHS official who oversaw health exchange matters at the agency, told The Post’s Sarah Kliff that “nobody is going to say we’re not starting on October 1, but in some situations, you may see a redefinition of what ‘start’ means.”
Some of that is a repeat of older reporting, but it makes the previously cheery report on the DC exchange look exceedingly pointless.
Next, the New York Times finally discovers why the Obama administration claims that insurance premium costs will drop. If you like your doctor … too bad:
Federal officials often say that health insurance will cost consumers less than expected under President Obama’s health care law. But they rarely mention one big reason: many insurers are significantly limiting the choices of doctors and hospitals available to consumers.
From California to Illinois to New Hampshire, and in many states in between, insurers are driving down premiums by restricting the number of providers who will treat patients in their new health plans.
When insurance marketplaces open on Oct. 1, most of those shopping for coverage will be low- and moderate-income people for whom price is paramount. To hold down costs, insurers say, they have created smaller networks of doctors and hospitals than are typically found in commercial insurance. And those health care providers will, in many cases, be paid less than what they have been receiving from commercial insurers.
Some consumer advocates and health care providers are increasingly concerned. Decades of experience with Medicaid, the program for low-income people, show that having an insurance card does not guarantee access to specialists or other providers.
Erika has a post coming up that will tackle this in more depth. For now, let’s just say that the media has had ample warning of all these issues, going back to the debate over ObamaCare in Congress in 2009-10. Only now, when their readers will begin to experience these failures up close and personal do they seem interested in highlighting them.
All of the above is a great argument for Republicans to demand a delay in the individual mandate, the exchanges, and the subsidies. It’s an even better argument to replace Democrats who passed this debacle when the midterms arrive in 13 months.