ObamaCare: Covering what comes next

Obamacare: Covering What Comes Next” is the title of a January 2014 seminar for journalists sponsored by the Poynter Institute and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. The seminar’s draft agenda includes a session on the “next shoes to drop” for Obamacare which seems illuminating. Let’s examine them in roughly chronological order:

Where will the fraud show up first? Funny you should ask: it’s already here, both from websites fraudulently imitating government exchanges and from the so-called navigators for Obamacare. To the degree fraud becomes any sort of significant story, it will not be a political plus for the White House or Democrats generally.

When new very high deductibles become reality: This will already be happening by the time of the seminar, along with high co-pays. It is already possible to look at charts of the plans offered in the exchanges and conclude this is not a plus for Obamacare.

New “super tight” networks that may not include the providers people want: The Allahpundit has been on this one repeatedly, and rightly so — particularly given that asking people to shop among plans via a government portal without telling them which doctors accept which plans is a recipe for disaster. In New Hampshire, the exchange attracted only one insurance provider, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which has excluded 10 of the state’s 26 hospitals from the health plans it offers through the exchange. Similar issues lurked in Edie Sundby’s story. Obamacare will even reduce choice in the Medicare population. President Obama (and other Democrats, most likely) promised that if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If Democrats thought the public got angry over the “If you like your plan” lie, they should imagine the public anger when people lose their doctors and hospitals. Doctors are not as easily demonized as health insurers; perhaps Obama will accuse them of unnecessarily removing your tonsils and amputating your feet for profit again.

Will the Young Invincibles sign up? The early results of signups in several states suggest not, which could lead to increases in insurance premiums and deductibles next year. In fairness, young healthy people have the least incentive to sign up early for O-care. On the other hand, they do not have much incentive to sign up for it in general. It is not just conservatives like Katrina Trinko pointing this out; it’s also lefties like Marc Rubin. High deductibles and co-pays affect young people less, but young men will suffer the worst of O-care’s premium shock. Asking young people to spend money on Obamacare will prove more difficult than asking for their vote.

Can providers handle the new load of patients? Good question, and one Democrats might have considered more thoroughly before enacting the law. America already has a worsening shortage of doctors, just at a point where America is generally getting older and sicker. The market — if allowed to work — may alleviate some of the problem. But in the short-term, dumping millions more people into the system at once — likely resulting in longer wait times and restrictions on new enrollments with doctors — may not prove to be the political plus Democrats think.

The battle over employer mandates still ahead: Indeed. The problems being discussed above in the context of the individual market (high premiums, deductibles and co-pays, possibly losing your doctor or hospital) may ultimately affect as many as 93 million Americans — including the employer-based market — starting perhaps weeks before the midterm elections. If the reality of Obamacare in the past six weeks has politically damaged the Democrats, one can only imagine what the damage will be when the affected population potentially reaches nearly one out of three Americans.

Unsurprisingly, the presenters this seminar for training journalists appear to be generally in favor of Obamacare. However, this only makes the storylines for 2014 listed above more notable. There will almost certainly be a few good stories for Obamacare in 2014, not least because journalists will be seeking them out. Yet one lesson of the past six weeks is that even the progressive establishment media is unable to spin away ugly truths. When looking at what even supporters think the major stories of 2014 will be, Obamacare looks to be bad news for everyone, including its supporters.

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