The setting is the February of 2010 health care summit with Republicans. Minority Whip Eric Cantor is addressing the president directly on the issue of people losing their insurance due to the Affordable Care Act:
CANTOR: …Because I don’t think you can answer the question in the positive to say that people will be able to maintain their coverage, people will be able to see the doctors they want, in the kind of bill that you are proposing:
OBAMA: Since you asked me a question, let me respond. The 8 to 9 million people you refer to that might have to change their coverage — keep in mind out of the 300 million Americans that we are talking about — would be folks who the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, estimates would find the deal in the exchange better — would be a better deal. So, yes, they would change coverage because they got more choice and competition.
Obama insisted anew Thursday that the problem is limited to people who buy their own insurance. “We’re talking about 5 percent of the population who are in what’s called the individual market. They’re out there buying health insurance on their own,” he told NBC.
But a closer examination finds that the number of people who have plans changing, or have already changed, could be between 34 million to 52 million. That’s because many employer-provided insurance plans also could change, not just individually purchased insurance plans
Administration officials decline to say how many employer-sponsored plans could change. But those numbers could be between 23 million to 41 million, based on a McClatchy analysis of estimates offered by the Department of Health and Human Services in June 2010.
The nation’s largest health insurer, UnitedHealthcare, claims the Affordable Care Act is responsible for forcing it to boot doctors from its Medicare Advantage program that serves thousands of elderly patients in the New York metro region.
CEO Jack Larsen, under fire for separating seniors from their MDs, took out full-page ads to explain that cuts in Medicare spending forced the insurer’s hand.
“We are working to collaborate with a more focused network of physicians to help us provide higher quality and more affordable health care coverage to meet the needs of our members, and help them get more from their health plan benefits,” Larsen said.
“This work has become even more urgent in light of the severe funding reductions for Medicare Advantage plans that have come from Washington.”
Why is this an immediate challenge? Because the hundreds of insurers offering plans on the federal exchange will begin pricing for 2015 in just a few months. Their chief financial officers should be sweating bullets about the obstacles that HealthCare.gov’s glitches have put in the path of enrollees. Fortunately, October was an early shopping month, mainly for browsing and for those who are sick and highly motivated to get coverage. It wasn’t an important month for enrolling the “young invincibles” — uninsured young people who don’t think they need health care — who will subsidize older, sicker enrollees. But the longer HealthCare.gov remains clogged, the more young invincibles will be discouraged from joining. If that happens, enrollment in the 36 states using the federal exchange will resemble small, high-risk insurance pools composed mainly of the sick — potentially causing premiums to soar in 2015.
Insurers must set rates for 2015 in some states by the end of February, and in most states before June. They can’t raise their rates on plans in the federal exchange now; their prices are locked in for next year. Nor can most carriers recoup any 2014 losses by raising premiums for 2015: Unless most competitors do the same, hiking premiums will chase away any healthy customers they have. But that is the imminent danger — a general rise in rates among health plans on the federal exchange.
The administration can try to head off the problem, or it can blame insurers after the fact. To convince skeptical CFOs that October 2014 will be very different from today, first the Web site and the information systems behind it must work. Additionally, the administration has to prove that it can effectively manage the world’s largest commercial health insurance store. And the president has only a few months to do so…
2015 is essentially here already.
Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu is hoping to cauterize that crisis with a bill that supposedly allows people to keep their plan if they stay current on premiums. About 80,000 Louisiana policy holders—or half of the individual market—will be dumped in 2014, according to the state’s insurance commissioner.
Here again, complex insurance contracts take months to plan financially and negotiate with providers. They could be renewed for maybe a few months but not forever, which is why the Landrieu bill is simply a new mandate ordering insurers to continue offering these plans. But the hard business truth is that these plans are already gone. The only way to solve the problem is a time machine to go back to 2010 when HHS published its deliberately restrictive rule on “grandfathering.”
The Shaheen and Landrieu proposals are merely ploys for these Democrats to distance themselves from ObamaCare while still embracing it. But they can’t have it both ways. Either they can vote to take down the whole regulate-subsidize-mandate apparatus for a year and propose major reforms to prevent a reprise of the last six weeks. Or else they will be enablers of the current and future disruptions, cancellations and limited health choices.
Administration officials scrambled Friday to find a quick fix to a problem President Obama said would never come about — millions of insurance policies canceled for people who have health plans they want to keep.
But as the controversy threatened Obama’s efforts to reassure fellow Democrats that he had things under control, administration officials and policy experts said they didn’t yet have a plan to solve the problem without further bogging down the president’s signature health reform plan…
Reinstating canceled policies would be a scramble for insurance companies, whose coverage plans need to be approved by state regulators — a process that can take months…
If millions more people can suddenly invoke the grandfather clause, said one analyst, that would change the assumptions insurers made when they calculated the premiums they are now offering in the marketplace…
If millions of people who have coverage now can keep it as long as they wish without complying with new rules, Claxton said, the healthiest of them will probably choose to do so — until they get sick and decide to cash in on the benefits of the new marketplace.
The administration has run out of political bullets. Unless the Affordable Care Act starts working, and delivering big benefits to more people than are losing their insurance, it can’t do much to improve those sagging poll numbers.
The second sign is that the president actually said he was sorry that some people had gotten the misimpression from him that they could keep their health insurance, when they were actually going to lose their policy and be forced to buy a more expensive one. Conservatives may complain that the apology was inadequate, since the president did not admit that he’d misled people. But this is the first time I can remember this president apologizing like this. It may be sincere. It is also a sign that his administration is backed into a corner. It can’t deny that this is happening, nor can it blame anyone else. What’s left to it are expressions of regret.
Politico reports that the president has also ordered aides to explore administrative fixes for people who are going to be made financially worse off by their cancelled policies. This would probably involve grandfathering all the existing plans. That will create chaos, and may leave the exchanges with a poorer and sicker pool of the folks who couldn’t buy insurance before. It would also mean conceding that the administration made a grave mistake when it drew the regulations for grandfathered plans so narrowly.
But until the exchanges start working, this is all the Obama administration has in the political arsenal. It may not be enough.
Barack Obama is guilty of fraud — serial fraud — that is orders of magnitude more serious than frauds the Justice Department routinely prosecutes, and that courts punish harshly. The victims will be out billions of dollars, quite apart from other anxiety and disruption that will befall them.
The president will not be prosecuted, of course, but that is immaterial. As discussed here before, the remedy for profound presidential corruption is political, not legal. It is impeachment and removal. “High crimes and misdemeanors” — the Constitution’s predicate for impeachment — need not be indictable offenses under the criminal code. “They relate chiefly,” Hamilton explained in Federalist No. 65, “to injuries done immediately to the society itself.” They involve scandalous breaches of the public trust by officials in whom solemn fiduciary duties are reposed — like a president who looks Americans in the eye and declares, repeatedly, that they can keep their health insurance plans . . . even as he studiously orchestrates the regulatory termination of those plans; even as he shifts blame to the insurance companies for his malfeasance — just as he shifted blame to a hapless video producer for his shocking dereliction of duty during the Benghazi massacre.
It is highly unlikely that Barack Obama will ever be impeached. It is certain that he will never again be trusted. Republicans and sensible Democrats take heed: The nation may not have the stomach to remove a charlatan, but the nation knows he is a charlatan. The American people will not think twice about taking out their frustration and mounting anger on those who collaborate in his schemes.
Obama had to have a great deal of contempt for the American people to think he could pull this off without consequence, just as he needed it in the first place to think he could push the bill through against the will of the country without repercussions that were entirely justified. Some of his flacks have used the word “sabotage” to describe the choice of many governors not to set up state exchanges, ignoring the fact that these acts are (a) entirely legal and (b) represent exactly the sort of judgment governors are elected to make.
“Sabotage” hardly describes this—it is called politics—and it hardly describes the train of disasters that is in the process of self-repealing this program. The website is broken, and not likely to be fixed quickly. The people who have persevered and managed to enroll are mainly 50 and over or younger people who are going on Medicaid. Furious voters are besieging their elected representatives. Democrats, especially those running in 2014, must fear facing opponents quoting Edie Littlefield Sundby. Obama is a lame duck with an approval rating now around 40, and he can no longer save them.
However this ends, it will not go well for this president. He built it. He owns it. And now it’s all his.
“I really just wanted him to know … I was so hopeful that this plan was going to move us forward, but in fact I think it’s moving us backward.”
Via the Daily Caller.
This is what betrayal looks like.
Here you have hardworking people who were repeatedly told not to worry, that their coverage would stay the same and—if anything—their costs would go down. Just the opposite is happening…
That’s why I’ve authored a bill to delay this law’s individual mandate tax – as has the senior senator in our state, Dan Coats. After all, how can you tax people for not buying a product from a website that doesn’t work?
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