Economics, Health Care

What we learned about Obamacare today: Dec 13, 2013

Image Credit: shutterstock

Image Credit: shutterstock

1.) Yesterday the HHS announced new regulations and suggestions for insurers (read these two round-ups from Kaiser Health News to learn more). One example is that “Insurers are being ‘strongly encouraged’ to treat out-of-network doctors as in-network doctors for acute-care episodes”. Megan McArdle writes on what she calls “Obamacare’s never-ending fix-a-thon”:

They are also “encouraging” insurers to provide coverage to anyone who has made partial payments — one person called them “down payments.” Though no one seemed quite clear what this meant; do people normally make down payments on a monthly insurance premium? …My best guess is that they’re asking insurers to cover people whose subsidy calculations were off until the paperwork can be straightened out….

This tells us a few things… The first is that the administration is deeply worried about people who had insurance they liked who are now going into January with either no insurance or with insurance that doesn’t cover doctors and treatments they’re receiving. And because the administration has access to the enrollment data, this further suggests to me that the enrollment spike we saw at the very end of November and the beginning of December has not reached a pace at which they can reasonably expect that the 5 million people who had their plans canceled will have replaced their coverage by Jan. 1….

The second thing it tells you is that the administration has reached the limits of its November strategy of using last-minute rule-making to implement on-the-fly changes to the law. Most in the latest round aren’t even rules… they’re requests…. But by making the request in public, the administration has given itself room to blame insurers when people lose access to doctors, drugs or insurance.

2.) Yuval Levin also weighs in on the above topic:

What the insurers are being asked to do here as a response, while not necessarily impossible as a practical matter, is very unusual, and it highlights a couple of things about the administration’s reactions to Obamacare problems. First, it’s another instance of pushing problems just a little bit further into the future. The administration has done this again and again: A lot of the steps they’ve taken as the rollout has floundered have evinced the hope that things will turn around very soon…. With this latest step, they’re pushing what appear to be huge problems off by a couple of weeks (in some cases days), and it’s not clear why they think things will be very different at that point.

The move also puts HHS in the position of playing the role central manager of the American health-care system—telling private insurers to do various things that have nothing in particular to do with the law, as though they work for the government. It is an eerie prefiguration of where the administration would like to get with this system, but it’s also surely something they didn’t want to be doing so publicly at this stage.

3.) Did you know: the “vast majority” of the exchange’s paper application responses still haven’t been mailed. The Washington Post provides details:

One significant reason [people may be having trouble getting coverage] is that the federal marketplace has accumulated a backlog of 50,000 to 60,000 paper applications as cracks have appeared in that low-tech method offered this fall as a backup plan, according to government officials…. The backlog accounts for nearly one-third of about 170,000 paper applications that people have submitted since the marketplace opened in October, the officials said.

No one knows how many of the consumers who sent in a paper application have chosen a health plan online now that the Web site is working better…. Besides the applications in the backlog, there are roughly 100,000 paper applications that have been processed, but the consumer was not told of the results until recently. The applicants are supposed to be mailed notification letters, but none went out until recently and the vast majority still have not. As a result, officials said, Serco workers last week tried calling the roughly 100,000 people to inform them of the eligibility decision and urge them to go online to sign up. It is not clear how many they were able to reach.

4.) The Los Angeles Times reports that many Californians “who enrolled in health plans still await confirmation,” and they may not get it before the New Year:

Thousands of Californians have overcome long waits and website glitches to sign up for Obamacare insurance, but now enrollment snags may prevent some of them from actually having coverage starting Jan. 1. Some people who picked a health plan as far back as October through the Covered California exchange say insurers are telling them they still have no record of their enrollment. As a result, bills haven’t gone out and consumers can’t pay their initial premium to ensure coverage takes effect in less than three weeks.

5.) If you’re looking for updates on the other states, Kaiser Health News has gathered them here, including “Republican states lag in health care coverage for residents,” and “Oregon’s health insurance cooperatives agree to postpone enrollment deadlines.”

6.) CNBC reports “House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is accusing Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of committing ‘criminal obstruction’ of a congressional investigation by instructing contractors working on the HealthCare.gov site not to provide documents to Congress.” HHS has been withholding, according to Politico, because it can’t trust Issa “to keep secret information that could give hackers a roadmap to wreak havoc on the system.” Issa issued a subpoena to “MITRE, a government contractor, to turn over unredacted copies of security-testing documents by noon Friday.”

7.) Today, Creative Computing Solutions Inc (CCSi), which had also been instructed by HHS to withhold documents, said it would comply with the subpoena from the Oversight Committee. Issa issued the following statement on CCSi’s decision:

Americans should be disturbed that this Administration is trying to stop government contractors from providing Congress with documents related to the decision to launch HealthCare.gov while known and serious security vulnerabilities were and still may be present.  CCSi’s analysis of the law is correct and its decision to comply protects its executives, investors, and customers from the risk of criminal prosecution for contempt of Congress.

The Committee has told HHS that it will make needed consultations with security experts to ensure the protection of sensitive information.  The Administration’s remaining objections are a specious effort to hide serious problems and reckless decision making by officials.

8.) AEI’s Jonah Goldberg tells how “Obamacare disinformation runs deep”:

Most people know the first deception in the triumvirate of deceit: “If you like your health insurance you can keep it, period.” The second leg in the tripod of deception was “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” But the third plank in the triad of disinformation hasn’t gotten much attention: Obamacare will save you, me, and the country a lot of money. This lie took several forms.

First, Obama promised on numerous occasions that the average family of four will save $2,500 a year in premiums…. The president and his allies also insisted that all of Obamacare’s “free” preventative care would save the country vast amounts of money….That’s not true either…. You are paying for “free” mammograms, blood tests, and the rest, even if you don’t see a line item for them on your bill. And even if you’re poor enough that you don’t even see a bill, that doesn’t mean no one’s paying. That’s why millions of Americans who’ve lost their health insurance thanks to Obamacare are discovering that the new plans it offers are either more expensive, have higher deductibles, or both. Also, prevention doesn’t necessarily save money.

9.) PolitiFact has dubbed “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it” the lie of the year. Sean Higgins says that PolitiFact is rewriting “its own history” with this decision, because it is “simultaneously distancing itself from its own years-long record of failing to identify it as a lie.”

10.) To start getting you in the holiday spirit, Fox News presented carolers singing “12 Days of Obamacare” (start at 0:30):

Follow AEIdeas on Twitter at @AEIdeas.

One thought on “What we learned about Obamacare today: Dec 13, 2013

  1. Coming soon: Obamafood.

    The government has set up food “exchanges” where you can order government-approved food. Private grocery stores will be mandated to stock only government-approved foods and brands. Discounts for generic foods will be required of “food providers.”

    The Obama administration has said, “If you like your grocer, you can keep your grocer.” The new FSA [Food Services Administration] director has stated that, “Just because your favorite foods no longer exist, that doesn’t mean you can’t have your food.”

    There have been long waits at the FSA website for ordering Obamafood due to technical problems. At least 569 people were able to enter their personal profiles and have their financial records verified along with electronic funds transfer arrangements.

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