Chicago Tribune editorial: ObamaCare delivering a Scroogesque Christmas

posted at 12:51 pm on December 19, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

The irony value of having the President’s home-town paper poking holes in the administration’s policies and performance has dimmed a bit recently, as the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board has become a vocal critic of the White House lately, especially on ObamaCare.  Today, they warn their readers that this Christmas may not be very merry on the mandate front, in large part because of (a) the Obama administration’s incompetence, and (b) their dishonesty about (a):

You think the Obamacare run-up to Jan. 1 has been a train wreck? Now it gets worse.

You’ll soon be hearing more stories of people who thought they’d signed up for coverage, only to find that their paperwork was gobbled by computer gremlins. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials said they’ve whittled down the error rate in enrollment data sent to insurers from an astronomical 1 in 10 to “close to zero.”

But insurers say they are still finding errors and the government is overstating improvements to HealthCare.gov, The New York Times reported. In some cases, for instance, the home address for a new policy holder was outside the insurer’s service area. Or a child was listed as the main subscriber — the person on the hook for premiums — with parents listed as dependents. Or people were listed two or three times on an application, which could mean higher premium payments.

Looming question: How many people have gained coverage versus those who have lost it? No one knows — yet. HHS is fond of boasting of rising numbers of people who have signed up for coverage, but officials don’t keep track of how many have paid premiums to start coverage.

One thing is certain: Most states lag behind in their Obamacare sign-up goals. The National Review Online reported this week that 45 states haven’t yet hit 10 percent — 10! — of their enrollment goals. In Illinois, a paltry 7,043 people have signed up, hardly a dent in the state’s goal of 300,000 by the end of March.

Well, at least Chicago isn’t Guam — and that actually matters. The Washington Post reports today that the Affordable Care Act was written poorly (shocker!) and only parts of it apply to US territories such as Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands:

Because of a quirk in the Affordable Care Act’s drafting, the Northern Mariana Islands and the four other American territories are subject to some parts of the law but not others. This has messed up the individual market in the Northern Mariana Islands so badly that the one plan selling policies there told the territory’s top insurance commissioner it would not sell new plans for 2014.

In other words: Beginning Jan. 1, regulators expect it will be literally impossible for an individual to buy a new policy in the Northern Mariana Islands, and difficult in other territories. …

The problem, in its simplest form, is this: While the Affordable Care Act requires health insurers in the territories to accept all shoppers no matter how sick, it does not mandate that all territorial residents buy plans nor does it provide subsidies to make coverage more affordable–as it does in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

This is, to put it mildly, a really bad way to run an insurance market. The whole idea of the subsidies and the mandate was to encourage enrollment among the healthier, younger people necessary to support an insurance market that also works for the sick. Without them, experts expect only sick people will enroll–and premiums will skyrocket. It’s like building a house with a roof but no walls.

Actually, the entire ObamaCare law is based on a flawed idea that top-down federal government control is the best way to “run an insurance market.” Every bad consequence that has developed flowed out of that assumption, when the supposedly central issue of the uninsured-by-circumstance was relatively narrow and could have been resolved with a much more modest approach without disrupting the rest of the market. In my column for The Fiscal Times, I explain that this is how we’ve gotten to shotgun weddings to avoid asset seizures, and begun tipping over Guam in a figurative sense:

That’s one of the problems of Obamacare itself – the perception that it’s a free lunch. Even those who do qualify for subsidies get that only through the collection of a myriad of taxes imposed by Obamacare. Those taxes apply to employers, insurers, and medical-device manufacturers, which drive up the costs for consumers and workers in indirect ways.  It’s a shell game–not a reform that actually drives costs down. Instead Obamacare only masks price increases through dishonest opacity.

The problem here is the arrogance of the solution itself. Had the Obama administration focused on just those who could not get coverage because of income or pre-existing conditions, they could have expanded Medicaid in an intelligent manner while protecting existing assets, without disrupting the rest of the market.

That might still have been controversial and would not have been cost-free by any means, but it would not have fatally undermined a system that worked for 85 percent of Americans and misled many of the rest into risking their estates without any warning that government would strip their heirs of family homes.

Targeted and modest solutions minimize unintended consequences, and allow for more speed and efficiency when they do arise. Obamacare will serve for decades as the cautionary tale when arrogance rules over modesty and common sense.

Legislate in haste (and bulk), repent at leisure.


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I don’t know, maybe it’s me, but I keep thinking that I’m hearing the same old stuff over and over again. Like nothing is being solved. How can that be?

HiJack on December 19, 2013 at 12:58 PM

HHS is fond of boasting of rising numbers of people who have signed up for coverage, but officials don’t keep track of how many have paid premiums to start coverage.

They also claim not to have knowledge of the demographic breakdown but that is clearly a lie. If they know how many people have enrolled they have to have the information about the ages of those who can’t wait to get their Obamacare coverage.

Happy Nomad on December 19, 2013 at 1:00 PM

That’s one of the problems of Obamacare itself – the perception that it’s a free lunch.

And that’s who is signing up…the one’s that think they qualify for the free lunch.

albill on December 19, 2013 at 1:00 PM

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.
~ H. L. Mencken

roflmmfao

donabernathy on December 19, 2013 at 1:01 PM

Popcorn will be in short supply after Jan 1st.

Stock up now!

txdoc on December 19, 2013 at 1:02 PM

and then hotair will run out of material to bash the President on…that’s what you’re really afraid of, right?

nonpartisan on November 19, 2013 at 4:47 PM

Chris of Rights on December 19, 2013 at 1:03 PM

Not even Chicago loves the goon any more.

Schadenfreude on December 19, 2013 at 1:03 PM

If only Congressional Republicans had had the chance to call for repeal or delay!

Happy Nomad on December 19, 2013 at 1:06 PM

We’ll have to pass it so you can find out what’s in it.

How that line is not trumpeted from the heavens every single day this scandal goes on is beyond me.

WitchDoctor on December 19, 2013 at 1:06 PM

and then hotair will run out of material to bash the President on…that’s what you’re really afraid of, right?

nonpartisan on November 19, 2013 at 4:47 PM

Chris of Rights on December 19, 2013 at 1:03 PM

I don’t care if you don’t find me entertaining…I’m not your court jester

nonpartisan on December 2, 2013 at 10:06 PM

nobar on December 19, 2013 at 1:07 PM

Obamacare is stealing Christmas for millions. Don’t need no stinkin’ Grinch.

petefrt on December 19, 2013 at 1:07 PM

The Chicago Tribune (once a great paper) endorsed this commie charlatan both in ’08 and ’12, recommending him to be the one to “address the nations debt crisis”.

Here’s their published Statement of Principles.

The Chicago Tribune believes in the traditional principles of limited government; maximum individual responsibility; minimum restriction of personal liberty, opportunity and enterprise. It believes in free markets, free will and freedom of expression. These principles, while traditionally conservative, are guidelines and not reflexive dogmas.

The Tribune brings a Midwestern sensibility to public debate. It is suspicious of untested ideas…..

LOL!

aquaviva on December 19, 2013 at 1:07 PM

Not even Chicago loves the goon any more.

Schadenfreude on December 19, 2013 at 1:03 PM

Which is why he is making noises of staying in DC after 2016. He said it was because of his youngest brat being in high school still but the reality is that his plans to position himself as world leader dictate that he be in DC or NYC. The incoming president, whoever that might be, would not be thrilled with the rat-eared coward still in town second-guessing and trying to remain in the spotlight.

Happy Nomad on December 19, 2013 at 1:08 PM

Not even Chicago loves the goon any more.

Schadenfreude on December 19, 2013 at 1:03 PM

Obama has become such an embarrassment that even the Kenyans are saying he was born in the USA.

petefrt on December 19, 2013 at 1:08 PM

We’ll have to pass it so you can find out what’s in it.

WitchDoctor on December 19, 2013 at 1:06 PM

Pelosi and large kidney stones. Who knew!

Shy Guy on December 19, 2013 at 1:10 PM

This is, to put it mildly, a really bad way to run an insurance market.

Who would’ve ever thought that a guy who never ran so much as a lemonade stand wouldn’t know how to run 1/6 of the US economy?

/

Kafir on December 19, 2013 at 1:11 PM

No, no Ed! You don’t understand! ObamaCare was MEANT TO FAIL! It was passed in the heady days of Democratic ascendency. Conservatism was dead! Democrats would rule for the next generation. Their intent was to throw up their hands saying piously “We tried!”………and then roll everything into a single payer system……..which is where they wanted to go from the beginning.

The only fly in the ointment was the 2010 elections.

GarandFan on December 19, 2013 at 1:11 PM

Problem is, Obama’s base doesn’t read the Tribune…that’s the “North Side” paper. The South Siders read the Sun-Times and that paper wouldn’t dare print something like this. Val Jarrett would be on the phone in minutes.

She’s still mad that her south side slum property wasn’t developed for the Chicago olympics!

JetBlast on December 19, 2013 at 1:14 PM

With the impressive resume that Obama had built during his long career I’m surprised this didn’t go so well.

jukin3 on December 19, 2013 at 1:16 PM

Chicago Tribune editorial: ObamaCare delivering a Scroogesque Christmas

“Oh, yeah? 1-800-F1UCKYO!!” — BarkyCare

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on December 19, 2013 at 1:18 PM

Obama has become such an embarrassment that even the Kenyans are saying he was born in the USA.

petefrt on December 19, 2013 at 1:08 PM

Heh.

antipc on December 19, 2013 at 1:21 PM

I think that there is going to be conversations about Obama Care over Christmas but not positive ones. King Barky the Liar may regret what he asked Pajama Person to pimp.

jukin3 on December 19, 2013 at 1:21 PM

She’s still mad that her south side slum property wasn’t developed for the Chicago olympics!

JetBlast on December 19, 2013 at 1:14 PM

Hey! Nobody is madder than Obama.

Happy Nomad on December 19, 2013 at 1:26 PM

The problem here is the arrogance of the solution itself. Had the Obama administration focused on just those who could not get coverage because of income or pre-existing conditions, they could have expanded Medicaid in an intelligent manner while protecting existing assets, without disrupting the rest of the market.

I am heartened to know that if the Republicans had offered a more focused, market-friendly alternative when Obama (well Pelosi really) was pushing his “signature legislative effort” the Tribune would have been right there standing shoulder to shoulder with Republicans supporting their alternative plan. What’s that you say? The Republicans DID offer alternatives? Oh, I didn’t see any write ups in the Tribune about that. Gee….

DaveDief on December 19, 2013 at 1:26 PM

I think that there is going to be conversations about Obama Care over Christmas but not positive ones. King Barky the Liar may regret what he asked Pajama Person to pimp.

jukin3 on December 19, 2013 at 1:21 PM

Rush mentioned you can get that onesie at Target. Which, of course, means that there could be losers out there that not only have awful taste in sleepwear but are also victims of identity theft! Throw in that they may have been forced to buy Obamacare insurance and what isn’t there to be merry about this Christmas!

All I know is that my liberal in-law better keep her mouth shut about what a wonderful job Obama is doing. I’m not going to put up with it this year.

Happy Nomad on December 19, 2013 at 1:28 PM

This stupid administration is so overconfident in their ability to fix things that they are completely blind to the fact that all of the fixes are the problem. The anchor is now where near the bottom and they’re running out of chain.

antipc on December 19, 2013 at 1:29 PM

now where nowhere

%$&@#*!%#$

antipc on December 19, 2013 at 1:33 PM

“Legislate in haste (and bulk), repent at leisure.” –Ed Morrissey

From “The Devil and Dan’l Webster”: “Repent of such glorious undertakings? Nay, hang them. Hang them all.” (might be a paraphrase)

Kevin K. on December 19, 2013 at 1:35 PM

Legislate in haste, cave, claim that it’s all to live and fight another day.

-GOP legislative strategy.

Obamacare should have been the hill the GOP fought on instead of allowing the surrender weasels to get their way.

Happy Nomad on December 19, 2013 at 1:39 PM

All I know is that my liberal in-law better keep her mouth shut about what a wonderful job Obama is doing. I’m not going to put up with it this year.

Happy Nomad on December 19, 2013 at 1:28 PM

You MUST record this and put the audio on You Tube!!

Maddie on December 19, 2013 at 1:48 PM

Unintended consequences. People, IT’S THE LAW!!

Axeman on December 19, 2013 at 1:52 PM

Obamacare is stealing Christmas for millions. Don’t need no stinkin’ Grinch.

petefrt on December 19, 2013 at 1:07 PM

just goes to show Santa is white and da Grinch is black

roflmmfao

donabernathy on December 19, 2013 at 1:58 PM

Actually, the entire ObamaCare law is based on a flawed idea that top-down federal government control is the best way to “run an insurance market.”

My impression is there’s no way in hell this can ever work. Single payer, that could work, though it has all the downsides of socialism. Health insurance as it was worked. But this combination of the two, it’s nonsense, isn’t it? It’s like having your cake and eating it too. They pretend there’s choice, but so much is mandated.

Paul-Cincy on December 19, 2013 at 2:01 PM

What kind of market can you have when you’re told what you can sell, to whom, for how much.

Paul-Cincy on December 19, 2013 at 2:11 PM

How many folks do you think will heed the advice of the First Yeti?


“You know, if you’ve got grandkids, make it a Christmas treat around the table to talk about a little health care. You know, ring in the new year with a — new coverage.”

I can picture it now. The pie’s just been polished off and so grandma declares that it is time to go around the table and say why you’re grateful for Obamacare!

Yeah, that’d be a magic holiday moment.

Happy Nomad on December 19, 2013 at 2:31 PM

Obama: ‘Tis better to give [me your fines] than to receive [health insurance].

When do we run the ad showing Obama, Reid, and Pelosi pushing Granny over the cliff?

Steve Z on December 19, 2013 at 3:21 PM

And as Guam slowly tips over into the Pacific Ocean, we wave good bye to another group of totally screwed people…

Kraken on December 19, 2013 at 4:41 PM