Who's up for another arbitrary delay in ObamaCare?

Actually, I’m up for delaying the whole thing indefinitely, but I’ll get to that a little later today.  One of the selling points for ObamaCare was its mandates on insurance companies to keep out-of-pocket costs down for consumers.  In fact, next to the promise of universal insurance (which turns out to be illusory, too), the cap on out-of-pocket expenses was supposed to be the best part of ObamaCare for consumers.  That, of course, just means that insurer risk pools have to cover more of the actual costs of medical care, which means that the costs will get passed along to consumers in the form of higher premiums.  And right now, skyrocketing premiums are the Obama administration’s biggest political headache.


Guess which part of ObamaCare just got delayed now?

First, there was the delay of Obamacare’s Medicare cuts until after the election. Then there was the delay of the law’s employer mandate. Then there was the announcement, buried in the Federal Register, that the administration would delay enforcement of a number of key eligibility requirements for the law’s health insurance subsidies, relying on the “honor system” instead. Now comes word that another costly provision of the health law—its caps on out-of-pocket insurance costs—will be delayed for one more year.

According to the Congressional Research Service, as of November 2011, the Obama administration had missed as many as one-third of the deadlines, specified by law, under the Affordable Care Act. Here are the details on the latest one.

Obamacare contains a blizzard of mandates and regulations that will make health insurance more costly. One of the most significant is its caps on out-of-pocket insurance costs, such as co-pays and deductibles. Section 2707(b) of the Public Health Service Act, as added by Obamacare, requires that “a group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage may not establish lifetime limits on the dollar value of benefits for the any participant or beneficiary.” Annual limits on cost-sharing are specified by Section 1302(c) of the Affordable Care Act; in addition, starting in 2014, deductibles are limited to $2,000 per year for individual plans, and $4,000 per year for family plans.


Avik Roy explains in more detail just what this means for the White House, and what it means for consumers who now have no choice but to pay for comprehensive health insurance rather than more rational hospitalization insurance.  The details of the delay were reported late yesterday by the New York Times, but didn’t garner much attention:

In another setback for President Obama’s health care initiative, the administration has delayed until 2015 a significant consumer protection in the law that limits how much people may have to spend on their own health care.

The limit on out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles and co-payments, was not supposed to exceed $6,350 for an individual and $12,700 for a family. But under a little-noticed ruling, federal officials have granted a one-year grace period to some insurers, allowing them to set higher limits, or no limit at all on some costs, in 2014.

The grace period has been outlined on the Labor Department’s Web site since February, but was obscured in a maze of legal and bureaucratic language that went largely unnoticed. When asked in recent days about the language — which appeared as an answer to one of 137 “frequently asked questions about Affordable Care Act implementation” — department officials confirmed the policy.

The discovery is likely to fuel continuing Republican efforts this fall to discredit the president’s health care law.

Actually, ObamaCare doesn’t need Republicans to discredit it.  The train wreck of its rollout accomplishes that task all on its own.  Furthermore, the White House itself adds to the discredit with each delay it unilaterally imposes for the Democrats’ electoral benefit, showing it to be nothing more than political machinery rather than a real solution to rising health-care costs.


Meanwhile, the White House continues to discredit itself as long as people ask this question:

Why is Obama bailing out employers and insurers with delays on mandates, but not consumers?

I’ll have more later today on delays for ObamaCare.

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David Strom 5:20 PM | April 19, 2024