“What the hell is this, a joke?” That was John Boehner’s reaction to the latest delay in ObamaCare, and he’s not wrong. In fact, it’s such a joke that only one major broadcaster bothered to report it on its evening news:
Of the broadcast newscasts, only CBS Evening News mentioned Obama extending the March 31 ACA deadline. #boring
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) March 27, 2014
They probably didn’t take it seriously in the first place. CBS reported that the deadline is, ahem, “fluid,” depending on circumstances:
Insurers aren’t happy at all about this banana-peel punchline. They’d love for this to be over so they can stop having to deal with the White House, The Hill reports today:
The health insurance industry can’t wait for ObamaCare’s first enrollment season to be over so that it can have a break from dealing with the White House, sources on K Street say.
Insurers feel that the administration has taken advantage of them by making repeated delays and changes to the law, even as they have gone above and beyond the call of duty to fix problems with the rollout.
The administration is nursing grievances as well, feeling insurers don’t have the best interests of consumers at heart and should temper their criticism as they do more to make the law work.
The tensions between insurers and the White House were described to The Hill by five healthcare lobbyists, both Republican and Democrat, who requested anonymity to speak freely.
Kathleen Sebelius arrives in Nashville, Tennessee to promote the Healthcare.gov web portal in part by pulling a Chip Diller and proclaiming that all is well with the website and the program:
Will anyone believe her? In my column today for The Fiscal Times, I note that her record of honesty and competence makes her campaign a joke, too:
Perhaps Kathleen Sebelius can explain her Congressional testimony to Speaker Boehner by claiming to have been joking when she insisted that there would be no further delays in Obamacare earlier this month. Sebelius was asked specifically by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) about any potential pushbacks on the open-enrollment deadline two weeks ago, and replied, “No sir.”
The day prior to that testimony, the spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told reporters that HHS didn’t have the authority to do so. “We have no plans to extend the open enrollment period,” Julie Bataille said. “In fact, we don’t actually have the statutory authority to extend the open enrollment period in 2014.”
I guess they were just kidding when they said that, eh?
Rich Lowry calls Sebelius “the Baghdad Bob of health insurance“:
Obamacare has been a long workshop in improv tragicomedy. The delays, regulatory rewritings and extensions are always an attempt simply to live for another day, to put off the political pain of cancellations, or rate hikes, or layoffs, and to manage to get just enough traction to make the law viable.
Millions have now signed up for the exchanges, but it’s not clear that the demographic mix is right to avoid steep premium increases by insurers in 2015. So far, it looks like young people— essential to making the economics of the exchanges work — aren’t signing up in the necessary numbers. The extension is surely a ploy to squeeze every last “young invincible” out of the current enrollment period, and hope the news for the rates in 2015 isn’t so bad.
And after that? It’s anybody’s guess. All we know for sure is that whatever Kathleen Sebelius says today may not be operative tomorrow.
Their self-congratulatory PR effort shows the real joke of this program, as I conclude in my column:
The biggest joke, though, is the pride in which the White House promoted its five millionth sign-up earlier this month. The imposition of the Obamacare regiment kicked as many as six million Americans out of their existing plans by the end of 2013 despite the “you can keep your plan” promise, which means that we still have not yet hit the break-even point on market churn. …
If this system works as well as the Obama administration insists, where are all of the uninsured? Why haven’t we seen massive numbers of enrollments from the beginning if that was such a crisis as to require the kind of intervention Democrats imposed, at an estimated cost of $1.5 trillion dollars over the next ten years?
That is the real joke, and it’s on us. Don’t expect us to laugh about it. Instead, we should double our efforts to jettison the jokers who are responsible for it.
Finally, IBD offers the real reason for the extensions and the Obama administration attempts to dodge demands for the hard numbers from HHS:
No, the real reason for the deadline delay is that Obama is desperate to get lagging enrollment numbers as high as he can, any way he can.
It’s the same reason the administration refuses to produce data on how many ObamaCare “enrollees” have actually paid their premiums: HHS officials insist they just don’t have that information.
But this week Reps. Dave Camp and Kevin Brady discovered that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been telling insurers to report both enrollment and payment data. That, the lawmakers say, strongly suggests “the administration knows who has enrolled and paid their first month’s premium.”
In addition, eight state-run exchanges — each built with federal grant money — have managed to produce nonpayment data for some time now.
That picture isn’t very pretty. In Maryland, 46% of enrollees haven’t paid their premiums so far. In Vermont, 36% are unpaid. Overall, about one in five people in these states has yet to pony up.
If that average holds nationwide, it means that fully 1 million people haven’t paid for their ObamaCare plans yet and could lose their coverage.
They won’t be laughing, either.