HHS delays 2015 enrollment to ... just past the midterm elections

Guess who’s worrying about the 2014 midterms?  It’s not Republicans, but the White House. In a nonsense move, HHS has announced a one-month delay in 2015 open enrollments in the ObamaCare exchange, which will mean … nothing at all for the elections:

Health and Human Services plans to delay the start of the second year of Obamacare enrollment by one month to allow insurers more time to set rates after assessing their plan experiences during 2014, a department official said Thursday night.

The decision means that sign-ups for the 2015 plan year would begin on Nov. 15, 2014 and end on Jan. 15, 2015 instead of the Oct. 15-Dec. 7 window previously announced. The date change, first reported by Bloomberg, also lengthens the enrollment period by a week. Doing so would give companies more opportunity to account for individuals, particularly young adults, who come in late during the plan’s first year, which has gotten off to a rocky start. The goal is premiums that more accurately reflect costs for those insured.

The new calendar would move the start of the 2015 open enrollment season to shortly after the November midterm elections.

This is, of course, nonsense.  Insurers will have plenty of time to calculate their rates for 2015 based on their experiences in the first half of 2014, as they have every year they have been in business.  This is just a transparent attempt to push off major price increases created by an inability to convince younger consumers to buy comprehensive insurance they don’t need, which will force insurers to raise premiums sharply again in the next year to make up the costs of all the mandates imposed on them for 2014. Those costs and the participation rate for various demographics will be well known in time for an October enrollment.

However, this misses the real risk for the White House, which isn’t in the individual market in 2015.The people in that market will have been battered all year with higher premiums and ridiculous deductibles, and another round of escalation in both will only have a limited shock value.  The risk is in the employer-provided group market, where costs will either skyrocket or employees will get kicked out of their coverage and forced into the individual market.  Those decisions will come in the late summer or early fall, as businesses have to prepare 2015 budgets in those time frames.  By the time the standard October 1 open enrollment date hits for those consumers, the enormous impact of ObamaCare will be well known — even if they can’t access price information in the individual exchanges. When tens of millions of Americans get handed huge price increases or get pushed out of their group coverage altogether at that point, the outrage and political meltdown will dwarf whatever pricing changes take place in the individual markets.

This is a desperation move in more ways than one, and yet another example of the ignorance of private-sector strategic processes in the Obama administration.

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Duane Patterson 2:01 PM on June 05, 2023