Five reasons a Congressional fix will be destructive
House Republicans have rallied behind the cause of people getting insurance cancellation notices—and, on Friday, they will vote on a measure that will purportedly allow these people to keep their current policies. The bill might not work as intended, but it might well have another set of consequences. It would allow insurer companies to keep discriminating against the sick, while selling people policies that leave them exposed to crippling bills in case of serious illness.
Bill Clinton has been one of Obamacare’s most effective advocates—the "Secretary of Explaining Things," as President Obama famously called him. But in a new interview already getting attention and sure to get more, Clinton didn't explain things very well. He made a statement that's likely to create some misimpressions about the possibilities of health care reform, while giving the administration and its allies yet another political headache. But maybe it's also an opportunity to have a serious conversation about the law's tradeoffs—the one that should have happened a while ago.
The real detail to watch is still to come
The Department of Health and Human Services will release initial enrollment statistics for Obamacare sometime this week, perhaps as early as Tuesday. But the disputes have started already. Christopher Weaver and Louise Radnofsky of the Wall Street Journal are reporting that no more than 50,000 people successful enrolled in insurance plans via healthcare.gov last month.
In an interview Thursday with NBC News' Chuck Todd, President Obama apologized to Americans receiving cancellation letters from insurers—and promised to investigate whether his administration could do something to help them. The apology is appropriate. Obama made sweeping promises that he should have qualified or at least explained in more detail. While most people will get to keep their plans next year, some won’t.
Examples of Obamacare plan cancellations and premium increases are getting tons of media coverage, though you rarely hear the whole story. Some people losing their plans have insurance with huge gaps, the kind that leave you exposed to financial ruin when you get sick.
Stories of real-life Obamacare “rate shock” have revived an old debate. Previously, health insurers could charge women higher premiums than they charged men. Insurers could also exclude maternity benefits. Obamacare prohibits those practices and conservatives are angry. Why should men have to pay higher insurance prices for services they will never use directly?
Here are two facts that have gotten very little attention amid all the controversy about insurance plan cancellations and “rate shock.”Fact one: Thanks to Obamacare’ subsidies, several million people now have the opportunity to get private insurance at essentially no cost.Fact two: Those ultra-cheap policies are pretty threadbare. They might keep people out of bankruptcy, but they still would leave beneficiaries exposed to thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses a year.
Administration officials are saying that healthcare.gov will be “functioning smoothly” by the end of November. And maybe they are right, in which case all the fuss about broken websites will become a historical footnote.But what if administration officials are wrong? What if it’s December and Obamacare’s official online portals are still barely functional?
The Obamacare online saga may be reaching the phase where media and political hysteria is out of proportion to the actual problem. A case in point is the controversy over enrollment numbers.