Possible Plan B for ObamaCare website meltdown: Tell people to visit individual insurance company websites instead

posted at 3:11 pm on November 11, 2013 by Allahpundit

This has been an obvious fallback plan since the beginning and the feds have resisted it for reasons that are equally obvious. Proposal: If Healthcare.gov won’t let people comparison-shop, why not just put up links on the site to the home pages of all the insurers who are participating in the exchange and let people comparison-shop by clicking around? Click the link to insurer A and check their price and provider networks, then hit the back button and click the link to insurer B, etc. It’ll take a lot more time than a properly functioning Healthcare.gov would, but look at it this way. If you were intent on going on vacation and Expedia and Kayak were both offline for some reason, you wouldn’t cancel your trip, would you? You’d surf over to the individual airlines’ webpages and start researching fares that way.

Two obvious problems with Plan B. One: It’s painstaking, which is yet another disincentive for “young healthies” to sign up. The point of Healthcare.gov was to make comparison shopping so fast and easy that the Internet generation could do it within 20 minutes of hearing Obama mention it on TV. If you’re now telling twentysomethings to set aside four hours to bounce from one insurance website to another in order to find the perfect plan for them, they’re either going to (a) sign up with the first or second insurance company they research, just to be done with the process, or (b) say “to hell with it” and put off signing up. Either they end up with a plan that’s sub-optimal or the industry ends up with an even bigger adverse selection problem. Or both, of course.

Two: Insurance companies can’t tell an applicant whether he/she is eligible for taxpayer subsidies or what amount those subsidies might be. That leaves the consumer shopping blind. If you sign up for a plan that costs $300 a month by guesstimating that you’ll receive $200 in subsidies and it turns out you qualify for only $50 in subsidies instead, that’s an $1,800 shortfall you need to make up. Given that uncertainty, what sort of sane, young, healthy person would roll the dice on signing up now? This is why I can’t understand why the “tech surge” team is messing around with stuff like front-end access instead of throwing everything they have at the subsidy calculator. If they could get that working, maybe they could farm the software out to individual insurers so that they can tell applicants definitively how much of their premiums will be covered by Uncle Sam.

But perhaps there’s a Plan B for that too:

On their own, insurers can help consumers through almost the entire enrollment process, but they need to rely on the federal online system for people to enter their incomes and find out whether the government will pay for part of their health plan. Since the enrollment period began Oct. 1, insurers have not had access to that feature — and, as a result, some have a lineup of potential customers unable to choose a plan and complete their purchase.

Part of the discussions lately between insurers and administration officials has been about what to do if that function is not fixed soon. One idea circulated within the insurance industry would be for HHS to approve a method to estimate subsidies and give preliminary tax credits based on those estimates — with the accurate amount determined later, once the system works better.

According to several people familiar with these conversations, insurance industry leaders have said that they would insist on a guarantee that they would be compensated for any underpayments — and that they have asked to keep any overpayments. Said one health-care consultant who is knowledgeable about insurance exchanges and who has been in touch with administration officials: “The concern is: Who bears the risk?”

They get compensated for underpayments and get to keep overpayments? Go back to the hypothetical about the $300 monthly premium; assume that the applicant will eventually discover that he’s entitled to $100 each month in subsidies, but for now he and the insurer are forced to guesstimate and they guess that he’ll be entitled to $200 each month. What happens once they discover their error? Does the applicant, who’s been inadvertently shortchanging the insurer each month, suddenly need to come up with hundreds of dollars he didn’t realize he owed, or is Uncle Sam going to apologize for the inconvenience of the process by covering that shortfall for him instead? On the flip side, imagine the same scenario except that the applicant and insurer guesstimate that he’ll be entitled to only $50 in subsidies each month. Once they discover that he’s been overpaying, it seems logical that the insurer should refund $50 per month to the applicant — but, per the WaPo quote above, they don’t want to do that. They want to keep the overpayment and have Uncle Sam refund the applicant’s money instead. One way or another, the feds end up paying more in this process than they would have if the subsidy calculator was working correctly from the beginning. Where’s the money coming from to pay for that screw-up? I realize Obama’s sense of his own unilateral executive powers is, shall we say, overly broad, but it can’t be so broad that he can appropriate extra cash for O-Care’s mess all on his own.

While you mull that, watch Todd Young deliver the GOP’s weekly address. On Friday, Rush Limbaugh warned that it’d be a “grave error” by Republicans to agree to let Obama delay the individual mandate to mitigate the website catastrophe. On Saturday, at 3:35 of this clip, Young calls for … delaying the individual mandate. It’s not just Democrats who’ll be arguing in a few weeks about how best to manage the website crisis. Although their arguments will be the most fun.


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Schadenfreude

Bmore on November 11, 2013 at 6:09 PM

An actress in the Johnsonville Chicken Sausage ad looks a lot like the young woman on the original Obamacare web site.

Dhuka on November 11, 2013 at 6:12 PM

DELAY NOTHING! After all, as the ‘progressives’ like to point out “ObamaCare IS THE LAW”!

GarandFan on November 11, 2013 at 6:13 PM

But after a while I try to stop feeling so helpless and think about how to do something constructive.

MJBrutus on November 11, 2013 at 6:08 PM

Point acknowledged.

Opening health care insurance to be sold across State lines would be a good start. Locking people into one state’s box tends to discourage competition.

But. We have a socialist/commie in the seat of power.

And, John McCain and Ms. Lindsey GrahamsCrackah.

Key West Reader on November 11, 2013 at 6:14 PM

***

Demanding Republicans come up with something equally as magnificent and enormous as the stinker Obamacare before striking down the beast is just a prog delaying tactic.

slickwillie2001 on November 11, 2013 at 6:00 PM

If I were the GOP leadership, I’d propose opening up markets by tearing down anti-competitive state barriers and introducing tort reform. I’m sure that there are some minor regulatory matters to address, maybe consider a financial-responsibility mandate (some minimum level of catastrophic coverage). But I’d then say that we’re turning it over to people in the private sector and remind anxious individuals that the private sector did a great job driving down the cost and improving the quality of many consumer products and services, including cosmetic surgery and Lasik surgery.

BuckeyeSam on November 11, 2013 at 6:14 PM

But. We have a socialist/commie in the seat of power.

Key West Reader on November 11, 2013 at 6:14 PM

Right. But to change that, we need to have something more than just, “let’s go back to the shi==y way it was.”

Otherwise, it’s hello President Shrillery (which is almost prohibitively likely as I see it).

MJBrutus on November 11, 2013 at 6:17 PM

Defunding does nothing to solve any of the problems that we faced prior to Obamacare. Or do you think that everything was just great then and that Americans were cool with what we had?

MJBrutus on November 11, 2013 at 5:46 PM

Most people were satisfied with their health insurance and care. It was a total lie that any but a few wanted to pervert and distort the system. It’s only the idiots, now, who still believe that people wanted any sort of radical change. The only problem that existed with health insurance before was that it was not interstate. That was it.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on November 11, 2013 at 6:20 PM

Right. But to change that, we need to have something more than just, “let’s go back to the shi==y way it was.”

Otherwise, it’s hello President Shrillery (which is almost prohibitively likely as I see it).

MJBrutus on November 11, 2013 at 6:17 PM

Simple answer.

That idiot community organizer compared health plans to auto insurance.

Auto insurance is sold across state lines, making it much more affordable, much more accessible and completely compliant with all 50 States (not 57 States that Obama thinks we have).

Open the markets. Free will of the people, free competition.

Problem solved.

Unless you’re a socialist assh*le like Obama.

Key West Reader on November 11, 2013 at 6:27 PM

Hey…These Republicans are just as “bought off” by “big health” as the Democrats. Money talks, and….well, you know the rest.

RADIOONE on November 11, 2013 at 6:29 PM

Defunding does nothing to solve any of the problems that we faced prior to Obamacare. Or do you think that everything was just great then and that Americans were cool with what we had?

MJBrutus on November 11, 2013 at 5:46 PM

You are correct that “defunding” is not the answer.

Carriers have spent the last 4 years adjusting their systems to meet Fed compliance.. That cost cannot be recovered. Everyone’s health care rates will rise.

Because..Obama.

Key West Reader on November 11, 2013 at 6:37 PM

Delaying will be devastating to Obamacare. I don’t see how Dems can delay it without the whole thing falling apart. If they delay it, premiums go up to make up for the loss of enrollment. But if they don’t delay, people are losing their insurance without being able to enroll in a new plan. Again, Obamacare falls apart.

What are Dems to do. But worse, this is physically killing people. Not figuratively. People are losing their lives. If it wasn’t for that, I say let it all crumble. Problem is that Liberals have absolutely no qualms about messing with people’s lives.

MrX on November 11, 2013 at 6:58 PM

I still cannot figure out what I would be doing differently if I were the current administration and actually wanted this to FAIL instead of succeed.

DublOh7 on November 11, 2013 at 7:23 PM

Most people were satisfied with their health insurance and care. It was a total lie that any but a few wanted to pervert and distort the system. It’s only the idiots, now, who still believe that people wanted any sort of radical change. The only problem that existed with health insurance before was that it was not interstate. That was it.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on November 11, 2013 at 6:20 PM

And there was nothing preventing States from allowing insurance companies to offer plans across State borders, either, so long as those insurers met the requirements in the other States. Indeed States could work together on this in joint agreement between groups of States or with those having similar statutory requirements and ask the federal government to allow a regularization of statutes. This does not have to be imposed from the top-down, but can be done from the bottom-up.

That requires working with your State legislature and governor and lobbying them to work with other States so as to allow companies to offer across State lines. The role of the federal government is to ensure that there is regularity between these agreements, which is the exact meaning of ‘regulation’ at the time the Constitution was written. That concept has been perverted by the modern era to mean written regulations imposed on the States by DC, but was originally meant to regularize agreements across State lines and to ensure that other States had access to them. Regional problems which would impact just a few States with common borders would be able to create working organizations to regularize the application of statutes and laws so that a common means of enforcing, say, flood control could be done without requiring more from DC than a person sitting on the board to make sure it ran well.

If we say we are for federalism and limited government, that means we push for State-level work and cut out attempts by DC to impose rules and regulations beyond those few powers it is granted. The idea is that the States are to come up with a common set of agreements without the need of any federal legislation, particularly for those things not handed to the federal government to do, like health care, and that the role of DC be that to ensure regularity of commerce for those across-State line agreements. Those are solutions that do need to be backed and worked out, but you don’t advance federalism by saying the federal government must impose a solution.

ajacksonian on November 11, 2013 at 7:38 PM

If they ask to delay the individual mandate call for repealing the law.

Ukiah on November 11, 2013 at 7:47 PM

Say, Obama, if you like your screwed up ACA you can keep your screwed up ACA.

If you want it fixed its sub-standard and needs to go, doesn’t it?

ajacksonian on November 11, 2013 at 8:04 PM

Schadenfreude

Bmore on November 11, 2013 at 6:09 PM

…lol!

KOOLAID2 on November 11, 2013 at 10:35 PM

Obama is loving this. Everything is right on track.

HiJack on November 12, 2013 at 6:26 AM

“The point of Healthcare.gov was to…” gather data on all potential Democrat voters. (See James O’Keefe’s latest brilliant video.)

PattyJ on November 12, 2013 at 11:28 AM

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