Alaska: We can’t confirm one ObamaCare enrollee yet

posted at 12:01 pm on October 15, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Lisa Murkowski wants some explanations, but it’s probably Mark Begich who will have to answer for the ObamaCare disaster.  Murkowski looked into the rollout of the exchanges in Alaska, and found that in two weeks no one from Alaska had been able to enroll in the federal exchange or buy a plan.  Murkowski demanded that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius explain why:

“This system that cost more than $400 million, took three years to build, and was billed as a one-stop shop for individuals seeking health insurance is not working as advertised,” Murkowski wrote. “In its first two weeks of operation, I am told that no one was able to enroll in the Alaska Exchange.”

Enroll Alaska chief operating officer Tyann Boling confirmed that no one has enrolled as of late last week.

“Now things are looking a little bit better this week,” she said. “It’s not for sure we’ve enrolled anybody yet, but things seems to be functioning a little bit better, but as of last week, we had not known of one person that had enrolled in the state of Alaska.”

Alaska has a small population — well under a million — but a higher percentage of uninsured, coming in eighth at 18.4% according to a September report in the Dallas Morning News.  Plenty of Alaskans should be enrolling at this point, and their lack of access may become an issue in next year’s Senate Race.  The Weekly Standard’s Michael Warren and Politico point out that Begich is already in trouble:

New polls of likely voters in three key states in next year’s U.S. Senate election show Republicans running just behind incumbent Democrats. Harper Polling, a firm associated with Republicans and working on behalf of conservative super PAC American Crossroads, conducted surveys of likely voters in AlaskaArkansas, and Louisiana, where those state’s Democratic senators face reelection in 2014 (via Politico). In each of those races, most of the potential Republican challengers poll within single digits of the Democrat.

In Alaska, where Mark Begich is the rare Democratic senator, Republican candidate Mead Treadwell trails by one point, 43 percent to 42 percent, while likely GOP candidate Dan Sullivan trails Begich by two points, 43 percent to 41 percent. Begich is weakened in Alaska, which typically sends Republicans to Congress; just 39 percent approve of his job as senator, while 42 percent disapprove. Compare that to Alaskan voters’ approval of Barack Obama’s job as president, with 35 percent approving and 57 percent disapproving.

Access is only going to be the first problem these Democratic incumbents have to field.  When the exchanges do start working, the sticker shock will far outstrip the incompetence shock.  In my column today at The Week, I point out why the “reform” will end up costing everyone an arm and a leg, and why buying no coverage turns out to be the same as signing up and complying with the law:

In order to keep prices low, 21 of the 22 approved plans on the Illinois state exchange have deductibles of more than $4,000 for individuals, and $8,000 for families. Frost notes that the average employer-based coverage puts the individual deductible at $1,100.

Consider what this means to the consumer. First, the government forces Americans to buy comprehensive insurance when many don’t need it. At $466 a month, the single father in the example above will spend about $5600 a year on comprehensive insurance, which would far outstrip the medical expenses for most 33-year-old single men who might expect only a wellness check and perhaps a couple of acute visits to a clinic for urgent care a year. At retail costs, even with labs, that’s going to run less than a thousand dollars a year at most.

Now, though, his insurance won’t even cover that much. Before Illinois consumers see any benefit at all from their insurance policies, they will have to spend more than $4000 each year out of their own pocket — and without the benefit of health-savings accounts (HSAs) to use untaxed income for that purpose. That means that some consumers will spend much more each year over and above their newly-inflated premiums, making it less and less likely that they will ever see any benefits from their mandated insurance policies other than avoiding the small fine from the IRS for non-compliance.

Thanks to the new mandate on insurers to cover the uninsured with pre-existing conditions at community rates, most people will choose to pay that fine anyway, and buy the insurance only when serious illness or injury occurs that requires hospitalization or extended treatment. That mandated risk on insurers is one reason that premiums and deductibles have skyrocketed.

ObamaCare turns out to be a parody of real reform:

Rather than demand that consumers buy comprehensive insurance, the alternate model would have emphasized catastrophic coverage with high deductibles, which before ObamaCare were low-cost options for healthier consumers who wanted to indemnify themselves against unexpected major costs. Removing insurers from routine maintenance care would have restored price signals and competition to the family-practice market, which would have provided incentives for doctors to re-enter it. Consumers could then have used their HSAs, which are discouraged in the ACA system, to cover their own routine maintenance, and insurers could have returned to their proper role: Indemnifying people against major loss, not acting as wellness managers. That role properly belongs to patients and their physicians, not insurers and certainly not the government.

Thanks to the ACA, we have the worst of both worlds.

Forbes’ Avik Roy wondered yesterday whether the exchange debacle wasn’t green-lighted in part to delay that realization:

“Healthcare.gov was initially going to include an option to browse before registering,” report Christopher Weaver and Louise Radnofsky in the Wall Street Journal. “But that tool was delayed, people familiar with the situation said.” Why was it delayed? “An HHS spokeswoman said the agency wanted to ensure that users were aware of their eligibility for subsidies that could help pay for coverage, before they started seeing the prices of policies.” (Emphasis added.)

As you know if you’ve been following this space, Obamacare’s bevy of mandates, regulations, taxes, and fees drives up the cost of the insurance plans that are offered under the law’s public exchanges. AManhattan Institute analysis I helped conduct found that, on average, the cheapest plan offered in a given state, under Obamacare, will be 99 percent more expensive for men, and 62 percent more expensive for women, than the cheapest plan offered under the old system. And those disparities are even wider for healthy people. …

So, by analyzing your income first, if you qualify for heavy subsidies, the website can advertise those subsidies to you instead of just hitting you with Obamacare’s steep premiums. For example, the site could advertise plans that “$0″ or “$30″ instead of explaining that the plan really costs $200, and you’re getting a subsidy of $200 or $170. But you’ll have to be at or near the poverty line to gain subsidies of that size; most people will either not qualify for a subsidy, or qualify for a small one that, net-net, doesn’t make up for the law’s cost hikes.

This political objective—masking the true underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans—far outweighed the operational objective of making the federal website work properly. Think about it the other way around. If the “Affordable Care Act” truly did make health insurance more affordable, there would be no need to hide these prices from the public.

True — but even this mess can’t delay it for long.  People will need to start paying those premiums, and then spend $4000 before getting the first benefit from them, and that starts immediately and lasts all year long.  Democratic incumbents facing red-state voters in Senate bids will long for the days when all they had to explain was the incompetence in the exchanges.


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You betcha!

mjbrooks3 on October 15, 2013 at 12:03 PM

Lisa Murkowski wants some explanations,

Bwaa haa haaa!

The irony.

portlandon on October 15, 2013 at 12:06 PM

Alaska: We can’t confirm one ObamaCare enrollee yet

That is due to the entire population of the state looking at Russia’s flat tax with envy from Sarah Palin’s house.

Gatsu on October 15, 2013 at 12:09 PM

Someday we’ll all look back on this and cry.

NotCoach on October 15, 2013 at 12:09 PM

I spoke with the LD for a Senator that was a major swing vote for Obamacare, and he was arguing with me about the law. He was dead wrong. I couldn’t believe that an LD for a swing vote Senator didn’t even know the law.

blink on October 15, 2013 at 12:09 PM

The truth about ObamaCare is harmful to Dems. You sure he wasn’t just lying?

NotCoach on October 15, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Bait and Switch, Hope and Change, no difference.

bsinc1962 on October 15, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Looks like Obama prepares sh!t sandwiches for everyone.

the_nile on October 15, 2013 at 12:13 PM

Every Conservative running for office should HANG ObamaCare around the neck of their Democratic opponent.

GarandFan on October 15, 2013 at 12:13 PM

It’s all Sarah Palin’s fault! /

idesign on October 15, 2013 at 12:15 PM

Ed, your article for the Weekly has made it to Yahoo’s feed.

As for Obamacare, while we pass the popcorn I hope this has a positive outcome but I’ll never underestimate the stupidity of the American public. I still foresee single payer on the horizon.

Logus on October 15, 2013 at 12:16 PM

Why hasn’t Murkowski enrolled yet?

Oh, right, four legs good …

ShainS on October 15, 2013 at 12:16 PM

It’s cause they don’t have the intraweb in rural Alaska, you silly neo-cons. /

hillsoftx on October 15, 2013 at 12:20 PM

“I can see Error404 from my house”

Electrongod on October 15, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Second look at Palin for Senate? Can you imagine the anti-Obamacare campaign speeches?

Chris of Rights on October 15, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Same number as HI enrollees.

BHO Jonestown on October 15, 2013 at 12:26 PM

So, what happens when this roll-out isn’t anywhere near done by December 15th?

MarkT on October 15, 2013 at 12:26 PM

Alaska: We can’t confirm one ObamaCare enrollee yet

Pelosi’s 2010 House crammed ObamaCare down Americas throat with a razor thin 219 yea votes

In October 2013…the average American gets to vote directly on ObamaCare!! So far…not a single American wants ObamaCare !!!

Whap..Pelosi !!
Whap .. Obama !!

BigSven on October 15, 2013 at 12:28 PM

Have reporters or the GOP pressed the Obama administration for the basis of that laughable $2,500 promise?

Every damn day, the GOP should be calling Obama a liar. What didn’t the Dems give him in Obamacare. They gave him everything, but he’s off by $10,000 on his promise. It’s not a rounding error.

BuckeyeSam on October 15, 2013 at 12:29 PM

OT, but … how old is that picture ??

Am I the only one noticing just how unwell dear preezy has been looking lately ??
Seriously, he doesn’t look too healthy in alot of recent images.
Must be working too hard ??
/

pambi on October 15, 2013 at 12:29 PM

Pambi, the pic is from yesterday.

Resist We Much on October 15, 2013 at 12:35 PM

OT, but … how old is that picture ??

Am I the only one noticing just how unwell dear preezy has been looking lately ??
Seriously, he doesn’t look too healthy in alot of recent images.
Must be working too hard ??
/

pambi on October 15, 2013 at 12:29 PM

this sick dude is sickening the rest of us in the process. i don’t know how much more we can take.

gracie on October 15, 2013 at 12:36 PM

It’s cause they don’t have the intraweb in rural Alaska, you silly neo-cons. /

hillsoftx on October 15, 2013 at 12:20 PM

Then the govt better get it to them fast, we can’t allow this inequality between rural/rural continue… Also, wiminz should get it first, coz…they’re wiminz….Myself and the rest of the taxpayers can’t wait to pay for it, if it’s for the greater good. /

jimver on October 15, 2013 at 12:38 PM

Rural/urban that is….

jimver on October 15, 2013 at 12:38 PM

I notice in the cover pic 0barky is serving unhealthy and racist WHITE bread….

dentarthurdent on October 15, 2013 at 12:40 PM

O/T w.r.t. the caption: Did anyone see the video of King Putt trying to make a sandwich at this lunch line operation all thanks to his booming economy?

There was a short video of him putzing with his ‘delicate hands’ trying to make a friggin’ sandwich and THEN trying to stuff his magnificent creation into a sandwich bag. It was hilarious. I was amazed at two things: one is that he is totally inept at something so simple that even a 5 year-old has mastered the craft and two, the manure spreading media even BROADCAST this bit of video!

Missilengr on October 15, 2013 at 12:45 PM

Left this paragraph out, Ed.

One Republican candidate, however, is substantially behind Begich in the poll. Joe Miller, who defeated Republican Lisa Murkowski in the 2010 primary but lost in the general election to Murkowski’s write-in candidacy, trails Begich in the 2014 race by 27 points. While many Alaskan voters (about a third) remain unsure about their opinion on Treadwell, the lieutenant governor, and Sullivan, the natural resources commissioner, a clear majority of 66 percent say they have an unfavorable opinion about Miller. Begich ought to expect a tight race against either of the other two Republican candidates, but Miller’s nomination would make it much easier for the Democrat to retain his seat.

I can’t wait for the flood of commenters dismissing this poll as skewed and pushing Miller to run again.

KingGold on October 15, 2013 at 12:46 PM

And the caregiver is going to require that deductible payment BEFORE rendering services.
Link=> Deductible payment before seeing doctor.

Carnac on October 15, 2013 at 12:48 PM

MarkT on October 15, 2013 at 12:26 PM

Every week this clusterfark goes on does material harm to the HC insurance industry… all the major providers are watching the ongoing digital chaos and aren’t trusting anything they’re getting from the 404-care system.

Doctors are either walking away, or getting ejected from the HC system.

This monstrosity is not designed to provide access to ‘affordable’ care…

…every fool entering the 404-care system is getting a ‘digital iron collar’ snapped around their necks.

They just don’t know it… yet.

The only thing not going according to plan is the collapse of the scheme from day one.

Everything else is by design.

CPT. Charles on October 15, 2013 at 12:56 PM

Thanks to the new mandate on insurers to cover the uninsured with pre-existing conditions at community rates, most people will choose to pay that fine anyway, and buy the insurance only when serious illness or injury occurs that requires hospitalization or extended treatment. That mandated risk on insurers is one reason that premiums and deductibles have skyrocketed.

although that might be true Ed open enrollment will only be 10/1-12/31
after this first enrollment.

you will not just be able to go get insurance

gerrym51 on October 15, 2013 at 1:18 PM

In Alaska, where Mark Begich is the rare Democratic senator, Republican candidate Mead Treadwell trails by one point, 43 percent to 42 percent, while likely GOP candidate Dan Sullivan trails Begich by two points, 43 percent to 41 percent. Begich is weakened in Alaska, which typically sends Republicans to Congress; just 39 percent approve of his job as senator, while 42 percent disapprove.

An opportunity for Senator Sarah Palin?

Steve Z on October 15, 2013 at 1:20 PM

Rather than demand that consumers buy comprehensive insurance, the alternate model would have emphasized catastrophic coverage with high deductibles, which before ObamaCare were low-cost options for healthier consumers who wanted to indemnify themselves against unexpected major costs. Removing insurers from routine maintenance care would have restored price signals and competition to the family-practice market, which would have provided incentives for doctors to re-enter it. Consumers could then have used their HSAs, which are discouraged in the ACA system, to cover their own routine maintenance, and insurers could have returned to their proper role: Indemnifying people against major loss, not acting as wellness managers. That role properly belongs to patients and their physicians, not insurers and certainly not the government.

Thanks to the ACA, we have the worst of both worlds.

I work in medical billing.

This needs to be said a thousand times a thousand times.

Obamacare is designed to take anything that might be intelligent reform on health insurance policy, and do the exact opposite of that for the explicit purpose of crashing the private health insurance market.

That’s why it makes HSAs harder. That is why it mandates tailored product insurance with all the graft and goodies Obama political cronies can stuff in there, and has high deductibles to boot.

In short – if you wanted to destroy an industry you would do exactly what the ACA does by making the product insurance companies sell inherently incapable of turning a profit, and then mandating everyone buy it. You get the political bonus of blaming the insurance company for the rate hikes, even though they are forced to do this by government edict.

The only thing stopping Obamacare is the total incompetence of everyone Obama has ever tasked to do anything, seeing as he only hires the few people he can find dumber than himself in order to protect his ego. Were he the rare example of a selfless communist, in other words, we’d be in a lot more trouble than we are.

BKennedy on October 15, 2013 at 1:25 PM

An opportunity for Senator Sarah Palin?

Steve Z on October 15, 2013 at 1:20 PM

My one problem with Sarah is she quit her Governor job only halfway through the term.
If she were to be elected Senator – would she actually stay in the job for the whole 6 years?

dentarthurdent on October 15, 2013 at 1:33 PM

It’s all Sarah Palin’s fault! /

idesign on October 15, 2013 at 12:15 PM

A stray bullet took out the server.

Ward Cleaver on October 15, 2013 at 1:34 PM

Thanks for the pic info. Hmmm.
Perhaps having someone, ANYONE actually challenging his plans for the USA, and the humiliations over the barrycades is taking their tolls.
He may not give a flying freak over those, inside, but his visage seems embattered.
YMMV.

pambi on October 15, 2013 at 1:36 PM

dentarthurdent on October 15, 2013 at 1:33 PM

Whenever I hear this statement, I have to assume the commenter either doesn’t believe her motivation in that situation, or despises it.
It was a selfless thing to do, all the while knowing she would be misunderstood, and demonized for it, apparently for life.

pambi on October 15, 2013 at 1:40 PM

“What makes me so sick is that member of congress didn’t even try to understand this law before they passed it. They spent all their time trying to understand the politics of of their votes.

I spoke with the LD for a Senator that was a major swing vote for Obamacare, and he was arguing with me about the law. He was dead wrong. I couldn’t believe that an LD for a swing vote Senator didn’t even know the law.

blink on October 15, 2013 at 12:09 PM”

AND NOT ONE – ONE, I REPEAT, REPUBLICAN VOTED FOR THIS POS TRAIN WRECK FOISTED ON US THE DEMO-RATS

soghornetgunner on October 15, 2013 at 1:53 PM

Factor in the time of year for these Exchanges. It is a calendar deductible and out of pocket cost.

So in the beginning of flu and sick season – god help those who get hit with these levels, before Dec 31st.

Come Jan 1 – reset to the out of pocket and deductible levels… so stock up on chicken noodle soup, NyQuil and gingerale.

Some people, within a 14 month period could be paying a ton of cash.

Odie1941 on October 15, 2013 at 1:56 PM

Also, this law increased the percentage of AGI (adjusted gross income) that you can itemize on your tax return. It went from 7.5% of AGI to 10%. (If you make $100K and you’ve incurred $20K of unreimbursed medical expenses, you can write-off $12.5K. It’s what exceeds the percentage that you can deduct. If everything holds the same, this amount is reduced to $10K.) So, not only have the deductibles increased, but the amount you can write-off will be less.

djaymick on October 15, 2013 at 2:02 PM

on average, the cheapest plan offered in a given state, under Obamacare, will be 99 percent more expensive for men, and 62 percent more expensive for women,

Since obummercare is a tax, how is it that this doesn’t violate the “Equal Treatment Clause” provision of the 14th Amendment?????

soghornetgunner on October 15, 2013 at 2:07 PM

Whenever I hear this statement, I have to assume the commenter either doesn’t believe her motivation in that situation, or despises it.
It was a selfless thing to do, all the while knowing she would be misunderstood, and demonized for it, apparently for life.

pambi on October 15, 2013 at 1:40 PM

Well, she says it was to go do greater things, but why couldn’t she continue to do those things as Governor?
And if she couldn’t do those things as Governor, how would she do them as a Senator?

I don’t want to hijack this thread into slamming Palin by any means.
I like most of what she stands for and says, but I do have a basic problem with people (any/all people) who apply/run for and accept a particular job, with known specific requirements and duration, and then bail out of it early. That’s all. To me, when people do that, it looks like pure ambition driving ladder climbing/jumping.

dentarthurdent on October 15, 2013 at 2:25 PM

Keep voting democrat!

Murphy9 on October 15, 2013 at 2:31 PM

Is that photo supposed to convince us that 0b00ba is qualified to make sammiches?

Nice try.

Akzed on October 15, 2013 at 3:09 PM

“I can see Error404 from my house”

Electrongod on October 15, 2013 at 12:24 PM

I am so stealing this……

Renee on October 15, 2013 at 3:30 PM

This political objective—masking the true underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans—far outweighed the operational objective of making the federal website work properly. Think about it the other way around. If the “Affordable Care Act” truly did make health insurance more affordable, there would be no need to hide these prices from the public.

A law school prof I know, discussing ethics, always cautioned the class, “If something you are doing depends on no one finding out, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.”

So, if the law you write requires that you force normal, non-criminal citizens to buy something against their will, then you probably should re-think your plans.

AesopFan on October 15, 2013 at 9:29 PM

Bait and Switch, Hope and Change, same thing.

bsinc1962 on October 15, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Bumper Sticker of the thread. (with just a little edit for euphony)

AesopFan on October 15, 2013 at 9:31 PM

I do have a basic problem with people (any/all people) who apply/run for and accept a particular job, with known specific requirements and duration, and then bail out of it early. That’s all. To me, when people do that, it looks like pure ambition driving ladder climbing/jumping.

dentarthurdent on October 15, 2013 at 2:25 PM

Kind of like some president we know.

Of course, no one was suing the government over Obama’s actions as a senator, or stalking his family, or publishing smear articles in every edition and broadcast, or …

I would have loved for Palin to stay on and make all the jackals back down, but it was costing Alaska and her family big bucks to defend her.
Maybe her supporters could have donated enough to cover the lawyers, but even that attempt led to another lawsuit IIRC.

Richard Feynman, while supporting due diligence and perseverance in scientific studies, also said that, when you really look like you’ve reached a dead end, quit throwing time and money away.

Of course, I read that in one of his books, and can’t find it on the ‘net, but these are pretty good too, and nearly on-topic:

“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.”
― Richard P. Feynman, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

“There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.”
― Richard P. Feynman

“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”
― Richard P. Feynman

“It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”
― Richard P. Feynman

“[Doubt] is not a new idea; this is the idea of the age of reason. This is the philosophy that guided the men who made the democracy that we live under. The idea that no one really knew how to run a government led to the idea that we should arrange a system by which new ideas could be developed, tried out, and tossed out if necessary, with more new ideas bought in – a trial-and-error system. This method was a result of the fact that science was already showing itself to be a successful venture at the end of the eighteenth century. Even then it was clear to socially minded people that the openness of possibilities was an opportunity, and that doubt and discussion were essential to progress into the unknown. If we want to solve a problem that we have never solved before, we must leave the door to the unknown ajar…doubt is not to be feared, but welcomed and discussed.”
― Richard P. Feynman

“My father had the spirit and integrity of a scientist, but he was a salesman. I remember asking him the question “How can a man of integrity be a salesman?”

He said to me, “Frankly, many salesmen in the business are not straightforward–they think it’s a better way to sell. But I’ve tried being straightforward, and I find it has its advantages. In fact, I wouldn’t do it any other way. If the customer thinks at all, he’ll realize he has had some bad experience with another salesman, but hasn’t had that kind of experience with you. So in the end, several customers will stay with you for a long time and appreciate it.”
― Richard P. Feynman

AesopFan on October 15, 2013 at 10:00 PM

Kind of like some president we know.
AesopFan on October 15, 2013 at 10:00 PM

No, different situation. 0barky should be impeached, tried, convicted, and well… appropriately punished for what he has done to this country. I won’t say what his punishment should be, cuz “it could get me killed, or worse – expelled” errI mean banned. (Harry Potter reference BTW)

I like Palin. I just wish she had fulfilled her entire term as Governor.

dentarthurdent on October 15, 2013 at 10:28 PM

Incidentally, if you are lucky enough to have an employer health plan that has not been trashed so far, watch out for your W2.

Predict that the value of your plan will become a taxable benefit to you, so you will get to pay a good chunk of that money back in additional taxes. If not this year, then next. Someone has to pay for this disaster.

virgo on October 16, 2013 at 3:27 AM

My one problem with Sarah is she quit her Governor job only halfway through the term.
If she were to be elected Senator – would she actually stay in the job for the whole 6 years?

dentarthurdent on October 15, 2013 at 1:33 PM

She had excellent tactical reasons for changing venues. Knowing when to retreat is the mark of a great general.

PersonFromPorlock on October 16, 2013 at 3:11 PM