Quotes of the day

The Obama administration says it’s granting a six-week extension until March 31 for Americans to sign up for coverage next year and avoid new tax penalties under the president’s health care overhaul law.

Monday’s move had been expected since White House spokesman Jay Carney promised quick action last week to resolve a “disconnect” in the implementation of the law. Technical problems continue to trouble the website that’s supposed to be the main enrollment vehicle for people who don’t get health care at work.


Five House Democrats are asking the Obama administration to seek a refund from the companies that built the ObamaCare website, which has so far failed to work for most people trying to sign up for health insurance.

“It is no secret that the website has not performed in a satisfactory manner,” wrote Reps. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), William Enyart (D-Ill.), Pete Gallego (D-Texas) Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Filemon Vela (D-Texas).

“As a result, we ask that you review the contracts and determine whether CGI Federal and/or any other company involved in the construction of the website has violated the terms of its agreement or is in constructive breach of the contract.”


Reporters have been doggedly trying to obtain the names of the companies or individuals brought in to help fix problems facing President Obama’s health care law, but they’ve had about as much luck figuring out who is involved in the “tech surge” as learning the identities of SEAL Team Six members

On a Monday afternoon conference call, Alex Wayne of Bloomberg News tried a different approach. Instead of attempting to ask the names of those involved in the tech surge, he asked Batille how many people were involved.

Yet apparently even that was too much to ask, because Bataille responded that she didn’t want those working on the project to be “distracted.”

Because clearly, if the American public is aware of how many people are involved in this project, the brilliant technology wizzes our government has brought on board won’t be able to get any work done at all.


President Barack Obama has said it again and again: Obamacare is more than just a website. And he’s right — the Affordable Care Act’s benefits aren’t limited to healthcare.gov.

Neither are its hangups…

Consumers are suffering from sticker shock; a major cross-section of previously insured Americans are finding out that their plans are changing to conform with Obamacare even though the president promised they wouldn’t; evidence of customer satisfaction is anecdotal; and there’s still no guarantee that the young “invincibles,” who must make up 20 percent to 30 percent of the pool to make the exchanges work, will actually enroll…

And while subsidies are available to offset the costs to lower income people, individuals making more than $46,000 or a family of four bringing home $94,000, bear the full brunt of the new prices. The big reveal has shocked some consumers, especially the healthy ones who had relatively affordable insurance before and make too much money to get subsidized coverage next year…

“There’s been a whole lot of emphasis on what’s going on with the website, but there’s been a lot less on the people who aren’t going to get subsides,” said Jennifer Beason, an insurance broker in the Atlanta area. “Their rates are going through the roof.”


The “bronze plan” doesn’t include necessary care, so the couple is looking at the “silver plan,” which starts at $1,400 a month. They are still trying to get an exact handle on the out-of-pocket expenses, but right now it appears as if the total cost will be in the range of $40,000.

The husband has been given three different estimates of the subsidies he will receive from the federal government, from $726 a month to $911 a month. Although that will soften the blow, they will still likely be paying more. (Nothing is certain yet given the rat’s nest of Healthcare.gov).

“We’ve doubled the cost of this guy’s health care. We’ve doubled it,” Johnson says, “and the only way we may make him whole – mayis if the federal taxpayer pays for half of his cost.”


So far the part of the Obamacare rollout that is going most smoothly and affecting the most people is the cancellation of current insurance polices. In states around the country, hundreds of thousands of people are getting notices from insurers that their plans are no longer allowed by the law. All told, 16 million people may be dumped from their policies, in flagrant contradiction of President Obama’s famous promise that you can keep your health plan if you like it.

Maybe the president didn’t understand the basic architecture of his own health care law, which depends on a government takeover of the individual insurance market. The rules governing the new system impose a novel federal definition of insurance on the country, and plans that don’t meet it, regardless of how well they may have served their customers in the past, are, by and large, verboten. Some are grandfathered, but the rules are strict and a great many existing plans won’t pass muster.

The woes of Healthcare.gov mean that the people with cancelled policies who are supposed to go find new insurance on the exchange can’t for now, and may not be able to by December 15, when they’d need to sign up to stay insured on January 1. When and if the website is finally functioning, many of these people won’t like what they see. In contradiction of another famous Obama promise, they will be charged more for their insurance to subsidize the costs of other people on the exchanges. For millions of Americans, Obamacare will be an experience in plumbing the depths of the dishonesty of President Obama’s case for his signature domestic accomplishment.


And it’s a national embarrassment whose troubles are only beginning. Unpleasant shocks loom for a majority of Americans who tap into Obamacare exchanges. Those 40 years of age and younger will discover next year their insurance premiums are “a lot higher than they would pay in today’s market,” says health care expert James Capretta. That will create a furor.

So, too, some lower-middle-income and middle-class Americans will find their access to doctors is limited. Why? Because many of the country’s biggest and best hospitals and some doctors have not agreed to take on this category of patients. Also, patients will be forced to endure longer waits as a result of a doctor shortage. In 2015 and 2016, the popular Medicare Advantage program will shrink.

Low-income folks and those with preexisting conditions will prosper under Obamacare. But how will middle-income Americans feel when they learn they’re paying considerably more for the same insurance? Not happy, I suspect. Or those under 30 who chose a “catastrophic-only” policy with high deductibles? They won’t be thrilled when told they are ineligible for a subsidy, whatever their income.

The point is that as Obamacare is rolled out over the final years of this presidency, there will be numerous occasions when Obama’s promises about the new health insurance scheme are exposed as untrue. If these incidents don’t provoke a crisis, they’ll at least keep Obamacare from fading as a prominent and fiercely debated issue.


In advance of Obamacare’s launch, my expectation was that The Fixers had the best shot at taking the presidency in 2016, from the right or from the left. While Obamacare would still be anathema to the Republican base, and no candidate in his right mind (except perhaps the next Jon Huntsman) would talk of fixing it while running for the GOP nomination, if the policy worked at least well enough to not be a disaster, it would remain in force for the foreseeable future. The post-Obama conversation on the right or left would shift to the components of the measure, and long-delayed negotiations over gradualist fixes and tweaks could finally begin.

This expectation has proven, to this point, completely wrong. The likelihood of exemption and extension – of the mandate and open enrollment – on a major scale rises every week. If Obamacare effectively ends up turning into an expansion of Medicaid for about half the states, it will be far easier to repeal, and the political debate about health policy will shift dramatically away from such approaches.

Should Obamacare’s tech surge fail and lead to these types of delays, 2016 could very well turn into a three way debate: between those who think Obamacare can be fixed; those who think the problem with Obamacare was that it went too far; and those who think the problem with Obamacare was that it didn’t go far enough. In a sense, such a debate would make for a more honest depiction of the factions within health care policy and a more clear-eyed view of the unacceptable status quo. At the moment in the United States, we have the worst of both worlds: a partially single payer and partially third party payer system which does a lot of things well, but does everything for far too much, since nobody cares what something costs so long as someone else is paying for it.


Healthcare.gov showed us that behind all the smoother and shinier designs was the same old clunky government where everything gets done because the right companies hire the right lobbyists and everything costs ten times what it should.

If the government can’t build a health care website, how is it going to actually run health care for an entire country is the obvious question that so many are asking. And the obvious answer is that it will run it the way it ran the website. It will throw wads of money and people at the problem and then look for programs it doesn’t like to squeeze for extra cash…

The United States government is the ultimate giant unworkable mess. It is a living cargo cult where everyone marches around following routines that are supposed to yield great prosperity, but never do. The processes themselves are broken and make no sense, but the cargo culturers of the government cannot and will not hear that. They know that the government will magically make everything work…

In cargo cult America, the food is free, the cell phones are free and the money can be printed forever because government is magic.


“If the president had said, ‘If you like your plan can keep it for double the price,’ I don’t think that people probably would have been as supportive. So I think that his primary problem is that he made a promise that he is not following through on.”


“I want to assure brother Williams that there is no schadenfreude because I’m not even pretending to be sorrowful,” Will continued. “Of course I want Obamacare to fail, because if it doesn’t fail, it will just further entangle American society with a government that is not up to this. For 100 years, Juan, the narratives of progressives from Woodrow Wilson on, is that progress will come if and only if we concentrate more and more power in Washington, more and more Washington power in the executive branch and more executive power in the hands of experts — disinterested experts such as those who designed HealthCare.gov.”


DEAN: The government has a right to make sure that when you buy something it is what it’s supposed to be.

KRISTOL: And to force you into the exchange? That’s what they’re doing.

DEAN: I think that’s okay because I think in the long run, what’s been happening in the past is those policies that get sold don’t cover what you think they cover. And furthermore, and this used to happen when I was practicing, an insurance company would pull your insurance if you got sick. That is not allowed anymore under Obamacare.

I think Obamacare is in fact going to be the reason that we are going to pick up seats in the House and we are not going to lose the Senate.