“What the hell is this, a joke?” Boehner said at his weekly press conference.
He was responding to the administration’s announcement on Tuesday evening that people who had begun the process of signing up for insurance through the federal exchanges would have until mid-April to do so, instead of March 31.
The Speaker called the move “another deadline made meaningless,” adding it to a litany of unilateral changes that the administration has made to the law.
“This is part of a long-term pattern of this administration manipulating the law for its own convenience,” Boehner said. “It’s not hard to understand why the American people question this administration’s commitment to the rule of law.”
“Open enrollment ends March 31,” Mr. Albright said. But, he added, “We are experiencing a surge in demand and are making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment, either online or over the phone.”…
Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, has said repeatedly that the federal website has been repaired and is ready to handle a surge of applications expected just before the deadline. But White House officials and some technology experts working on the exchange began to worry that the website might freeze up if the demand exceeded expectations…
If the federal website faltered just before the deadline, it could create a political fiasco for Mr. Obama and other Democrats, just as they were recovering from the damage done when the site left millions of Americans frustrated in October.
The Obama administration is giving anyone “in line” for health coverage extra time to get it. But there isn’t really a “line” and nobody’s checking who’s on it…
For Affordable Care Act coverage, federal exchange customers can simply “attest” that they attempted to enroll on time but were stymied — whether by website glitches, complex family situations or pretty much any other explanation. They won’t have to produce documentation.
“Most people are truthful when applying for those benefits,” said Julie Bataille a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the Obamacare enrollment system. On a call with reporters she declined to describe any scenario in which someone seeking to complete coverage after March 31 would be denied or told they weren’t “in line” for coverage.
In reality, the administration is just continuing a long pattern of delays. They’re all designed to show flexibility and help the law work better, but they also fuel a public perception that Obamacare deadlines never really mean anything.
The administration already went through the same exercise in December, cutting people some slack if they were stuck in cybertraffic by the deadline for Jan. 1 coverage. Then and now, administration officials argued that it’s only fair to give people extra time if they were held up by the volume of last-minute sign-ups.
But the list of delays covers so much more. The administration has bent deadlines for the employer mandate (twice), put off the launch of the Spanish-language enrollment site and even delayed the enrollment season for 2015 — pushing it off until after the November midterm elections.
As the White House is announcing some leeway on the March 31 enrollment deadline, about six in 10 uninsured American adults didn’t know about the deadline in the first place, according to a new poll…
Just 11 percent of the uninsured say they have been personally contacted about the health care law by phone, email, text or a door-to-door visit in the past six months.
This latest instance is defended by the administration and its supporters as just a commonsense measure intended to help those who were stymied during the enrollment process by the glitch-ridden Heatlhcare.gov website. But the political implications of this decision are more far-reaching than the matter-of-fact announcement that sought to represent it as not a big deal. The delay seeks to get the president off the hook for the ACA likely falling millions short of the seven million enrollees that constituted the administration’s initial goal as well as the benchmark that would enable the ACA to be fiscally responsible.
At this point any excuse, no matter how flimsy, to do something to soften the blow of the expected shortfall makes sense for an administration that is already having a tough time selling the unpopular scheme to the public. But more than that, the record of unending delays and meaningless deadlines set up a situation where it will be difficult if not impossible for the federal government to police those provisions of the law that it really does want to enforce. Coming at a time when the Health and Human Services contraception mandate is under attack in the Supreme Court and, just as significantly, the system of ObamaCare subsidies is in peril of being overturned in the federal appellate courts, this new delay is just one more reason why the law is rightly viewed as having brought chaos rather than reform to the health-care system.
[A]s antiquated and malleable as some view the Constitution, it clearly says something about the president taking care “that the laws be faithfully executed.” The ACA features no addendum stating “but if this doesn’t work out, the executive branch should feel free to make revisions to guarantee the law is a ‘success.’” So a person can be apprehensive about Obamacare on more than one level just as easily as John Harwood can appreciate the wonders of ACA exchanges and also fret over the lawlessness of implementation (a word that should be loosely used).
It must be noted that blowing Monday’s deadline wasn’t illegal, only a lie. Obamacare doesn’t specify how long the open enrollment period should last. But, as another delay is part of a slew of extensions and/or delays enacted without statutory power, it has a broader meaning. The “law” is now nothing but an ambiguous assurance that allows the administration to function — almost always for political gain — as it pleases. As Michael Cannon has noted, the administration has disregarded the requirement that recipients of insurance subsidies enroll in coverage through state exchanges. And, without any congressional authorization and contrary to the language of federal law, the administration is handing out subsidies to people enrolled through HealthCare.gov. The latest delay only adds to a far larger problem.
Before the exchanges opened, the administration said it needed 40 percent of enrollments to come from young people to keep the prices of exchanges policies from spiking. The improbable worst-case scenario sketched by a December report from the Kaiser Family Foundation was 25 percent. Yet that’s where we’ve been stuck for months.
You can argue (as that report does) that age itself doesn’t matter much. But it seems unlikely that age is the only problem; if young people are staying away from the exchanges in droves, it seems likely that we’re also seeing quite a bit of what insurance experts call “adverse selection”: The folks who are buying insurance are disproportionately the ones who expect to need some costly health care in the coming year. If that’s the case, expect premiums to rise sharply — which is just what insurers have been threatening.
So again, here’s the really worrying scenario: The demographics haven’t budged, or have only barely improved from earlier months. The White House knows that means that big premium increases are in the offing for 2015, and they’re hoping to head them off at least temporarily with this delay. Extending open enrollment, which is essentially what they’re doing, would then be a desperate play to get more young, healthy customers into the exchanges, and perhaps to make it a bit harder for insurers to raise rates. In some states, insurers have to file preliminary rate increases in May. And thanks to this latest extension, they won’t have final data to back up any requests for a premium hike.
If the administration goes into the next open enrollment with the same unattractive plan offerings costing a lot more than they do today, they will not be able to reboot Obamacare.
Simply, health insurance plans that cost middle-class individuals and families 10% of their after-tax income and have average Silver Plan deductibles of more than $2,500 a month are not attractive and people won’t buy them any more enthusiastically next fall than they already have. See: Obamacare: The Uninsured Are Not Signing Up Because the Dogs Don’t Like It
Doubling the fines for not buying in 2015 will only give the Democrats more political problems––and it doesn’t look to me like they are going to enforce the fines anyway.
Health insurance plan executives are now faced with a daunting decision. How do they price the 2015 Obamacare exchange plans?