Chicago Tribune drops the hammer on Obamacare

posted at 10:11 pm on October 15, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

I’m sure none of us tire of reading all the news accounts and editorials that—tragically, for those affected— echo the exact concerns and criticisms we all had of Obamacare before it passed. But this one’s a particularly straightforward and thorough takedown of the administration’s amateur hour performance, in the president’s home state.

First, the technical problems:

If you’ve tried to sign up online for health coverage under the problem-plagued Obamacare exchange, our sympathies. Many people have tried to create accounts and shop for insurance under the new law. Few have succeeded. Those that have enrolled have found that the system is prone to mistakes. Some applications have been sent to the wrong insurance company…

• Illinois officials boasted that insurance premiums here would be lower than expected. But the Tribune reported Sunday that 21 of the 22 lowest-priced plans offered for Cook County residents have whopping annual deductibles of more than $4,000 for an individual and $8,000 for family coverage. That’s much more than many families can afford to pay.

• The Obama administration delayed issuing major rules to set up the exchanges until after the 2012 presidential election and refused to push back the Oct. 1 launch date, lest Republicans take political advantage, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

• Sloppy design of the architecture of the computer system, not simply an overload of users, created the problems that are blocking people from applying online for coverage, The Wall Street Journal reported last week.

“These are not glitches,” an insurance executive who has participated in many conference calls on the federal exchange told the Times. “The extent of the problems is pretty enormous. At the end of our calls, people say, ‘It’s awful, just awful.’ ”

The Department of Health and Human Services under chief Obamacare cheerleader Kathleen Sebelius has had three years to develop this system. It has busted deadline after deadline, all the while promising that the system would be ready on Oct. 1. It has overpromised and underdelivered. The excuse? Demand was unexpectedly high, crashing servers. Unexpected? Americans have been bombarded with marketing campaigns and news stories and outreach efforts on behalf of Obamacare. And now Sebelius and Co. are shocked that people are logging in to … buy insurance? Come on, Ms. Sebelius.

At this point, the Tribune‘s call last week for a delay in the individual mandate sounds as prescient as Republicans would have sounded if they’d spent the last two months focusing on the same:

As we write, we don’t know what Illinois residents may find when they surf to the new website, getcoveredillinois.gov or call the help desk at 866-311-1119. It’s open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Federal and state officials have scrambled for months, blowing deadline after deadline, to make the system ready. They’ve encountered bugs: A few days ago came reports that the software was miscalculating the federal subsidies available to low-income people who seek to buy coverage.

We all know the people who crouch in front of their computers, ready at the stroke of midnight to buy the latest iPhone or sign up for the Next Big Internet Thing. In this case, however, you may want to wait for a few days (weeks?) to let the feds work out the kinks.

What’s certain is that Obamacare health care changes will ripple through every American’s life. Doctors, hospitals and insurers have invested large sums to gear up for the law’s complex requirements. They’ll treat many new patients.

The Tribune also focuses on a personal story. This is just one of many people who have already been negatively affected by Obamacare, among those who were promised they could keep their doctor, keep their plan, and their prices would go down:

Those who have managed to browse the marketplace have often been hit by sticker shock. Take Adam Weldzius, a nurse practitioner and single father from Carpentersville. He sought the same level of coverage on the exchange as he and his 7-year-old daughter have now, with the same insurer and the same network of doctors and hospitals. At best, Weldzius found, his monthly premium of $233 would more than double. If he chose a plan priced at the same level, the annual deductible would be $12,700, more than three times his current $3,500 deductible.

“I believe everybody should be able to have health insurance, but at the same time, I’m being penalized. And for what?” Weldzius told the Tribune’s Peter Frost. “For someone who’s always had insurance, who’s always taken care of myself, now I have to change my plan?”

Weldzius echoes the concerns of even liberals in the Bay Area who have partially seen the light after sticker shock got delivered to their doorsteps:

“I was laughing at Boehner — until the mail came today,” Waschura said, referring to House Speaker John Boehner, who is leading the Republican charge to defund Obamacare.

“I really don’t like the Republican tactics, but at least now I can understand why they are so pissed about this. When you take $10,000 out of my family’s pocket each year, that’s otherwise disposable income or retirement savings that will not be going into our local economy.”

Both Vinson and Waschura have adjusted gross incomes greater than four times the federal poverty level — the cutoff for a tax credit. And while both said they anticipated their rates would go up, they didn’t realize they would rise so much.

“Of course, I want people to have health care,” Vinson said. “I just didn’t realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally.”

And, then there are the broken promises, again via the Tribune:

There are more problems. People who have individual insurance coverage are finding that Obama’s oft-repeated promise — “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan” — is just not true. They are being told by insurers that their existing plans expire on Dec. 31 and they must choose new coverage. They’re learning that insurers managed to offer lower-cost plans by narrowing the networks of hospitals and doctors that are available or by upping the out-of-pocket expenses. Unless people are careful in selecting coverage, they may be surprised to find they have to pay much more for out-of-network care to go to their doctors or get treated at the best hospitals. Federal officials argue that they’ll work out the kinks in the system in plenty of time for people to sign up by Dec. 15 for coverage that begins Jan. 1. Yes, the techies might be able to work out the computer network problems by then. But that’s not a given.

This thing is a total disaster, and one that’s compounding its own problems daily. There needs to be a drop-dead date for shutting it down and not requiring families and individuals to submit themselves to this, as Allahpundit and Megan McArdle pointed out this morning. Ironically, if it fails badly enough— and it seems almost certain it will, because who really believes this thing is going to be operational by mid-November or early December?—Republicans may get at least a one-year delay of the individual mandate. And, they didn’t even have to shut down the government to get it.

Update: Some in comments raise a fair point about my last sentence. I put this in comments, but it’s worth posting here:

Yes, a totally fair point, and I should have written it differently because I don’t think it was conservatives who pushed us to government shutdown. As I’ve said on TV a ton of times, it’s not unprecedented to negotiate over funding of the gov’t or debt ceiling; it’s unprecedented to refuse to negotiate and then act like negotiation is unprecedented. I should have written “without the government shutting down.” I just meant we could have gotten a one-year individual mandate delay without any of the last two weeks or the brand damage sustained therein. That’s my take on what we should have done. Many disagree. Fine. I feel like we put ourselves in a position where *mitigation* of a p.r. calamity was the biggest win we could hope for. I think a material policy win on individual mandate delay and enforcing the income verification would have been preferable. On the ground, I think that would have meant a significant delay of most (if not all) of the law, a palatable message for most of the country’s voters, fewer people hooked on subsidies, and yes, more media focus on the disaster that is Obamacare.

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Wonder when everyone that is against ObamaCare…. realizes that by FLOODING,SPAMING & OVERLOADING the web site their voice will be heard? Just think what would happen if they got some real traffic!

roflmmfao

donabernathy on October 16, 2013 at 8:33 AM

I’m a white racist Tea Party Member and fly very high a Confederate flag. Liberalism has never worked and never will. The only way this country will ever come back to the Country I grew up in is to eliminate the Democratic party. Watch some of the Liberal TV networks. They are a joke and I go there for a good laugh. Obamacare is a joke and will self destruct. I would encourage people not to ever sign up for this stupid dispickable mess. It is embarrassing for our Country and the whole world is laughing.

tmgrant on October 16, 2013 at 8:35 AM

Illinois officials boasted that insurance premiums here would be lower than expected. But the Tribune reported Sunday that 21 of the 22 lowest-priced plans offered for Cook County residents have whopping annual deductibles of more than $4,000 for an individual and $8,000 for family coverage. That’s much more than many families can afford to pay.

Illinois has some strict consumer anti-fraud statutes. Why is no one suing over the misrepresented costs?

Nutstuyu on October 16, 2013 at 8:39 AM

Republicans didn’t shut down the government. When are conservatives going to STOP accepting the premises of the left?

doorsxp on October 15, 2013 at 10:28 PM

While I agree with you in principle, Republicans did have a part in shutting down the government. All the branches are co-equal, remember? Even Benedict Roberts had a part in shutting down the government.

Nutstuyu on October 16, 2013 at 8:45 AM

tmgrant on October 16, 2013 at 8:35 AM

Ban the troll

Monkeytoe on October 16, 2013 at 8:49 AM

Secretary Syphilis is the prototype for “Mrs Management”

J_Crater on October 15, 2013 at 11:04 PM

And feminists wonder why there are so few female CEOs.

Nutstuyu on October 16, 2013 at 8:50 AM

I believe after conservatives fought so hard against Obamacare and then it collapses who will suffer? Not Obama and Reid but the American people. That must be prevented. A year or two from now this PR nightmare that is Obamacare was inflicted on us by Dems and conservatives (not Republicans) fought valiantly to prevent this disaster of Obamacare from happening. Don’t take many bows Mr McCain and Graham because you were on the wrong side.

Herb on October 16, 2013 at 8:53 AM

Ed and AP probably loathe Ted Cruz and Mike Lee as much as McCain and Graham do.

bw222 on October 15, 2013 at 11:29 PM

Could it be that Ed has a background in “call-centers” and AP has a dog for a face, while Cruz and Lee are eloquent, successful and highly-educated?

Nutstuyu on October 16, 2013 at 8:53 AM

I think that would have meant a significant delay of most(if not all) of the law

Okay, this is the sentence where the induced brain hemorrhage made coherent thought possible. MKH, I’ve been reading your stuff for a long time, following you around to each of your many stops before you resettled back here. But I’m trying to wrap my head around this idea that you-and many others- seem to think is totally awesome for the GOP: delaying O-care for a year or more. You know, until after the midterms. Why exactly do think that delaying the pain and suffering that this big steaming pile will cause until AFTER the election cycle has passed is a net positive in any way, shape or form for the GOP? If Group A passes a law that will make a large percentage of voters really unhappy going into an election season, what good can Group B possibly accrue by delaying the implementation of said law? Oh wait, I know the answer to this one: none.

You can make all the points about damage to the GOP brand that you want, but this continued assertion that delaying the mandate until after the midterms somehow helps the GOP and- by implication hurts the Democrats- is so mind boggling that I can only assume that newborn lack of sleep has affected your mental faculties. Having gone through that period three times (and only four years ago for the most recent), I can well and truly empathize. But that doesn’t excuse the sloppy thinking.

You will notice that I managed to not make snarky comments about Beltway cocktail parties, but rather tried to stay on topic. Because I’m actually bewildered how the idea that a delay is a good thing came into being. It defies all logic and reason.

Physics Geek on October 16, 2013 at 8:55 AM

I just meant we could have gotten a one-year individual mandate delay without any of the last two weeks or the brand damage sustained therein.

How, exactly? What have you seen from Dems that indicates to you that they would have agreed to this absent a shutdown? They wouldn’t even come to the table for the first week of the shutdown, you think they’d just blithely sit down and cough up a delay without some pressure?

Just ridiculous.

If this legislation is as bad as we know it to be, and it is, voters will remember in 2014 which party tried to stop it.

Missy on October 16, 2013 at 8:57 AM

Yes, a totally fair point, and I should have written it differently because I don’t think it was conservatives who pushed us to government shutdown.

I am confused, MK. Are you saying that Cruz/ Lee weren’t the agents that “pushed us” to government “shutdown”? Or are you trying to redefine conservatism to exclude Cruz and Lee?

applebutter on October 16, 2013 at 9:00 AM

I’m actually bewildered how the idea that a delay is a good thing came into being. It defies all logic and reason.

Physics Geek on October 16, 2013 at 8:55 AM

And, therefore, is right at home in D.C.

socalcon on October 16, 2013 at 9:01 AM

applebutter

More than slightly O/T, but apple butter was my favorite spread on toast as a child…haven’t thought of that in thirty some years.

Thanks for the wonderful memory. :-)

socalcon on October 16, 2013 at 9:05 AM

Because I’m actually bewildered how the idea that a delay is a good thing came into being. It defies all logic and reason.

Physics Geek on October 16, 2013 at 8:55 AM

It’s because they think they will win the Senate and then pass the “repeal and replace” bill on both chambers. Of course they probably still won’t have enough to override a veto, but then no one mistook them for being intelligent.

Nutstuyu on October 16, 2013 at 9:06 AM

applebutter

More than slightly O/T, but apple butter was my favorite spread on toast as a child…haven’t thought of that in thirty some years.

Thanks for the wonderful memory. :-)

socalcon on October 16, 2013 at 9:05 AM

Me too. Especially in the fall and apple-picking season.

Nutstuyu on October 16, 2013 at 9:07 AM

I feel like we put ourselves in a position where *mitigation* of a p.r. calamity was the biggest win we could hope for.

At this point in his career, the primary thing I admire about John McCain is his disregard for what the vast majority think of him.

Shorter: F*ck the “p.r. calamity” , it is nothing compared to the survival of the Republic.

socalcon on October 16, 2013 at 9:12 AM

It’s because they think they will win the Senate and then pass the “repeal and replace” bill on both chambers. Of course they probably still won’t have enough to override a veto, but then no one mistook them for being intelligent.

Nutstuyu on October 16, 2013 at 9:06 AM

But even that is ridiculous. Even if the Senate had 52 republicans, it probably wouldn’t have enough votes to pass a repeal with a simple majority. McCain and Grahm and others would be idiots as usual.

but regardless, that is Pyrrhic victory at best. A year’s delay helps the Dems, helps Obama and solidifies Obamacare as the status quo.

Anyone who claims that is a good idea has little analytical ability.

Monkeytoe on October 16, 2013 at 9:12 AM

At this point in his career, the primary thing I admire about John McCain is his disregard for what the vast majority think of him.

socalcon on October 16, 2013 at 9:12 AM

I think you have it completely wrong. That is the only thing he cares about, which explains why he is a democrat and not a republican (in actions if not party enrollment).

Monkeytoe on October 16, 2013 at 9:13 AM

Here is something that the GOP (and MKH) don’t seem to ever get.

You strike while the iron is hot.

Obamacare is a disaster. People are beginning to learn the true costs. You let it roll out. You let people get hit with the costs.

You pound on it. And, despite what MKH says, the media is never going to focus on the costs or implementation disaster. The GOP has to find ways to bring it to the public constantly and to educate the public that cost is only going to go up and quality of care and access to care are only going to get worse under Obamacare. And you pound on that for the next year until the midterms. You do not let up. You don’t give your opponent a breather by agreeing to delay the damage they’ve done until after the elections. You don’t let the iron cool down before you strike it.

And – that is exactly what is being called for. Let’s give the dems a break. this is apparently under the assumption that one more year will enable the GOP, who has had 5 years thus far do do so, to finally come up with a message about Obamacare and educate the public about its evils.

Yeah. Sure. This time the GOP will nail it. Just give them a year to finally come up with a winning message. Oh, and by the way, during that year the democrats/media can fix the website glitches and spread their propaganda. But no worries. The GOP will come out on top because . . . .

Monkeytoe on October 16, 2013 at 9:19 AM

At this point, the Tribune‘s call last week for a delay in the individual mandate sounds as prescient as Republicans would have sounded if they’d spent the last two months focusing on the same:

Certainly it’s natural to believe that Republicans would have sounded prescient.

BUT the fact is, they would have been portrayed as whining, hating racists who want the exchanges to fail above all else. And, sad to say, sometimes they DO come off as whining, even if absolutely correct.

So instead, now the media is emotionally *unfettered* and can actually report the truth because they don’t have to respond to the eeevviiiillll republican health exchange te**orists. They can simply do their jobs, for once.

Feels good to let this bonfire burn and not worry about the kindling.

LetsBfrank on October 16, 2013 at 9:35 AM

Monkeytoe on October 16, 2013 at 8:20 AM

82 strong shepherds, out of some 350 plus stood up against honoring Obama the “culture of death” president, at Notre Dame. Then again most of the apostles deserted Christ in his moment of need. One bishop–Judas Iscariot–betrayed him, so nothing is new.
The wheat will be separated from the chaff in the final reckoning.

Don L on October 16, 2013 at 9:42 AM

Wow, I actually DIDN’T see this coming.

Chris of Rights on October 16, 2013 at 9:55 AM

None of it matters now.

They pushed the law through Congress. They lost the House but they don’t care cause it’s already signed.

They got the ridiculous SCOTUS tax-but-not-a-tax ruling. They had to openly demonstrate Obama lied his ass off to the American people but they don’t care, cause they got their ruling.

They won their re-election. So at this point, the only thing Obama has to do is refuse to change anything on the Republicans’ recommendation, because every time he does, he hurts their brand, and every time he makes a change on his own recognizance, he gets to lie his ass off about how this is all part of the design.

In a way, it IS all part of the design, because getting the law passed was the only thing that mattered. Not the law itself, not the implementation, not the timetable. Once the claws are in, they can take all the time they want to mold it into whatever they want, cause it’s all too late now.

The moment those websites went online, they got the last piece they wanted. The whole damn thing is intractable now. People are waking up to how we were right about everything but none of it matters cause they got their bill.

The Schaef on October 16, 2013 at 10:03 AM

But I’m trying to wrap my head around this idea that you-and many others- seem to think is totally awesome for the GOP: delaying O-care for a year or more. You know, until after the midterms.
Physics Geek on October 16, 2013 at 8:55 AM

A one-year delay would end a month before the mid-terms, not after.

SD on October 16, 2013 at 10:08 AM

Maybe someone can explain to me how Obamacare being a total disaster will result in the US going to a single payer program. It seems to me that at the Obamacare disaster is proof that the government is incapable of managing even a portion of the health care industry, let alone 100% of it. If anything, the Obamacare disaster will probably result in more gains for the GOP in the House and may result in a takeover of the Senate. If that happens, and a GOP majority would conintue through the 2016 elections, how would a single payer program make it through Congress?

GAlpha10 on October 16, 2013 at 10:09 AM

A one-year delay would end a month before the mid-terms, not after.

SD on October 16, 2013 at 10:08 AM

Okay, sure, one year from today would be before the midterms. Is there a reason to suspect that this exemption wouldn’t be pushed back until, say, January 2015? Consider a give from the incoming Congress.

Physics Geek on October 16, 2013 at 10:25 AM

Maybe someone can explain to me how Obamacare being a total disaster will result in the US going to a single payer program.

Because O-care will cause private insurance to dramatically raise people’s rates, with increased co-pays and out of pocket expenses. The only option once you’ve “proven” that private insurance is unworkable is for the benevolent government to come in and control the whole thing to take care of you.

You laugh, but there are plenty of supposedly intelligent people who believe that last statement. Worst case guess on that percentage? Around 51% or so of the current U.S. population.

Physics Geek on October 16, 2013 at 10:28 AM

Maybe someone can explain to me how Obamacare being a total disaster will result in the US going to a single payer program. It seems to me that at the Obamacare disaster is proof that the government is incapable of managing even a portion of the health care industry, let alone 100% of it. If anything, the Obamacare disaster will probably result in more gains for the GOP in the House and may result in a takeover of the Senate. If that happens, and a GOP majority would conintue through the 2016 elections, how would a single payer program make it through Congress?

GAlpha10 on October 16, 2013 at 10:09 AM

If it bankrupts insurance companies and/or drives them out of health care it will leave a gap that gov’t will have to fill. that is what Obamacare is designed to do. When you force insurers to cover per-existing medical conditions, you are forcing them to pay someone Else’s bills. That isn’t insurance. If enough healthy people don’t pay premiums to cover those costs, the insurers lose money (don’t forget, that in addition to paying their insureds’ medical bills, they have their own overhead to cover). If insurers lose money, they will eventually go bankrupt or get out of the health insurance business. Investors don’t invest to lose money.

Then, once insurers are out of business, because people are so used to someone else paying their medical bills, they would never be able to come to grips with the idea of everyone simply paying their own medical bills with, perhaps, catastrophic medical insurance. Therefore, most of public would clamor for a Europe-style single-payer system.

Monkeytoe on October 16, 2013 at 10:49 AM

Physics Geek on October 16, 2013 at 10:28 AM,

I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t see how Congress will pass a single payer program when the administration can’t even get Obamacare implemented.

GAlpha10 on October 16, 2013 at 10:52 AM

A one-year delay would end a month before the mid-terms, not after.

SD on October 16, 2013 at 10:08 AM

Assuming by “1 year” we are actually talking about 1 calendar year and not a delay to January 2015. Every source I’ve seen discuss this actually uses “1 year” to mean a delay to January 2015.

regardless, even if it were a delay to October 2014, it would still save/help the dems. They would have 1 year to spread propaganda through their propaganda arm (the media) while the public continues in ignorance about the real costs of Obamacare. Plus, they would have time to fix the web-site glitches for applying and fix other problems so the roll-out isn’t as disastrous for the dems. Plus, by that point the narrative for the election will be set and the media can easily embargo Obamacare stories for a month until after the election.

And, in reality, what value does delay give the GOP? Why give the dems this boon?

the only potential “value” to the GOP in agreeing to a delay is to be able to sucker the base into believing the GOP “won” something. It is the definition of a Pyrrhic victory (something that appears to be a victory but is in fact a defeat).

So, the point remains. Delay is idiotic.

Monkeytoe on October 16, 2013 at 10:55 AM

Maybe someone can explain to me how Obamacare being a total disaster will result in the US going to a single payer program. It seems to me that at the Obamacare disaster is proof that the government is incapable of managing even a portion of the health care industry, let alone 100% of it. If anything, the Obamacare disaster will probably result in more gains for the GOP in the House and may result in a takeover of the Senate. If that happens, and a GOP majority would conintue through the 2016 elections, how would a single payer program make it through Congress?

GAlpha10 on October 16, 2013 at 10:09 AM

It would start with one of the private health insurance bigs going bankrupt (because of government over-regulation and mandates). The REB would declare them ‘too big to fail’, and we would have the Government Motors of health insurance.

No longer concerned with the bottom line, ‘Government Health Insurance’ could grow their market share against the remaining private companies until they dominated the industry.

slickwillie2001 on October 16, 2013 at 11:19 AM

I am hopeful that Republicans will recover from the brand damage because they were right.

Doing something extereme will seem much more justified when people realize that the Democrats have done nothing but lie for 5 years.

While the only people in government telling the truth were Republicans. They were even willing to put their careers on the line to get the truth out.

But I have doubts that the media will allow any truth to come out ever.

It is the media that is the enemy of the American people, not the Democrats or the Republican du jour you hate.

petunia on October 16, 2013 at 12:12 PM

“I was laughing at Boehner — until the mail came today,” Waschura said, referring to House Speaker John Boehner, who is leading the Republican charge to defund Obamacare.

“I really don’t like the Republican tactics, but at least now I can understand why they are so pissed about this. When you take $10,000 out of my family’s pocket each year, that’s otherwise disposable income or retirement savings that will not be going into our local economy.”

If lots of liberal or “independent” voters have this same experience of being forced to buy expensive health “insurance” that doesn’t reimburse much, and Republicans keep campaigning that “give us control of the Senate”, and we’ll repeal Obamacare”, there may be a good chance of taking back the Senate in 2014.

Steve Z on October 16, 2013 at 4:26 PM

Did Waschura vote for Oba-mao? Another liberal idiot, ideologue.

ultracon on October 16, 2013 at 6:32 PM

Voter’s revenge should vote OUT every Democrat who voted for the Obamacare mess.

Amazingoly on October 17, 2013 at 6:07 AM

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