Politics

ObamaCare’s glitchy little discount for smokers

ObamaCare's glitchy little discount for smokers

If we weren’t all suffering beneath it, there would be a certain entertainment factor in watching ObamaCare disintegrate.  It bears repeating that no group in modern American politics has been more thoroughly vindicated than ObamaCare critics.  Everything they said would go wrong has gone wrong.  Nothing Obama and his team of con artists promised has come to pass.  Every friendly estimate of costs and benefits from the program was wrong by an order of magnitude.  And now that launch date for the major ObamaCare programs is approaching, the whole thing is going up in a fireball on the launch pad.

If only the voters of 2009 could have seen today’s headlines!  Wait, that’s a foolish thing to say.  It wouldn’t have mattered.  ObamaCare was rammed down our throats with backroom deals and kickbacks in the dead of night.  The American people had nothing to say about it, and nobody who passed it knew what was in it.

The Associated Press brings us another of those laugh-till-you-cry last-minute ObamaCare system malfunctions:

Some smokers trying to get coverage next year under President Barack Obama’s health care law may get a break from tobacco-use penalties that could have made their premiums unaffordable.

The Obama administration — in yet another health care overhaul delay — has quietly notified insurers that a computer system glitch will limit penalties that the law says the companies may charge smokers. A fix will take at least a year to put in place.

Older smokers are more likely to benefit from the glitch, experts say. But depending on how insurers respond to it, it’s also possible that younger smokers could wind up facing higher penalties than they otherwise would have.

With three years to prepare, the ObamaCare geniuses couldn’t figure out how to handle insurance penalties for smokers?  The very people this titanic super-government has spent decades hectoring about their unhealthy lifestyle choices?  The result will be some people paying less, some people paying more… ah, who knows?  The important thing is that we’ll all be paying.  Step right up to the central planning Wheel of Wonder, take a spin, and find out how much your insurance premiums will get jacked up today!  Be ready to spin again when King Barack I decides to rewrite another part of the malfunctioning law, with an eye towards the impending political devastation of his Party in the 2014 elections.

“Some see an emerging pattern of last-minute switches and delays as the administration scrambles to prepare the Oct. 1 launch of new health insurance markets,” says the Associated Press.  Sure, and some others knew this was coming all along.  Some of those others work for the White House.  The big lie in current coverage of the ObamaCare debacle is that all these terrible developments are taking the Obama Administration completely by surprise.  That would be bad enough if it were true, but in truth they’ve known about these problems for months, and taken great pains to hide them from the American people.

That’s the thrust of a National Journal article from Tuesday entitled “White House Has Known For Months ObamaCare Implementation Wouldn’t Work.”

As far back as March, a top IT official at the Department of Health and Human Services said the department’s current ambition for the law’s new online insurance marketplaces was that they not be “a Third-World experience.” Several provisions had already been abandoned in an effort to simplify the administration’s task and maximize the chances that the new systems would be ready to go live in October, when customers are supposed to start signing up for insurance.

In April, several consultants focusing on the new online marketplaces, known as exchanges, toldNational Journal that the idealized, seamless user experience initially envisioned under the Affordable Care Act was no longer possible, as the administration axed non-essential provisions that were too complex to implement in time. (Read the story for some examples and commentary.) That focus has intensified lately, as officials announced that they would not be requiring employers to cover their workers next year or states to verify residents’ incomes before signing them up for insurance.

“There’s been a focusing in not on: ‘What is the full ACA vision?’ but: ‘What are the pieces we have to get running by October 1?” said Cindy Gillespie, senior managing director at McKenna Long and Aldridge, who is working with states and health plans.

The “seamless user experience” is impossible because “non-essential provisions that were too complex to implement in time” were cut from the system?  My beloved old systems analysis professor would rise from the grave and beat me senseless with a stack of COBOL debugging printouts if I ever said something like that.

The National Journal piece includes a flowchart of how the public exchanges are supposed to work.  I should warn you that the link is “not safe for work,” because if you stare at the flowchart for too long, your head will explode, and you really shouldn’t expect your employer to clean that up.

Here’s how it’s all supposed to work:

In an ideal world, the exchange websites need to be able to talk to several federal agencies—IRS to verify an applicant’s income and employment status, the Department of Homeland Security to determine her citizenship, and the state government to see if she qualifies for Medicaid, to name a few—all in real time, so a person could fill out a form and purchase insurance in one sitting.

Each of those departments has its own computer system and its own means of tracking information. Creating a “data hub” to share them has been a challenge, as a recent Government Accountability Office report highlighted. It is increasingly clear that the kind of Amazon.com, one-stop shopping that was once described – and that Obama himself referenced in a speech on Monday — will not be available in most parts of the country.

“It’s the joyous, simultaneous, nonlinear equation from hell,” said Kip Piper, a former top official at HHS and OMB who is now a consultant in close contact with IT vendors. Piper said it’s no surprise that the administration has given up on certain functions given the technological complexity needed and the short time-frame.

Does anyone remember the ObamaCare snake oil salesmen saying anything about nonlinear equations from hell, incompatible government databases, and crucial features not being available in most parts of the country?

This isn’t just a handful of annoying glitches.  It’s the complete invalidation of ObamaCare’s central premise: that a top-down government-controlled system can deliver price, convenience, and availability superior to what the free market could offer, especially if we had made it truly free, instead of dropping ObamaCare on top of the existing regime of silly regulations.

Among other things, actual insurance charges less for young and healthy people who aren’t likely to file big claims – that’s how risk is efficiently managed at a profit, in a manner that makes perfect sense to the consumer.  ObamaCare reverses the equation, squeezing cash out of young and healthy people by forcing them to buy junk they don’t need, from a system that doesn’t work, to subsidize price-controlled coverage for older and less healthy Americans.  And we’re still being forced to spend our hard-earned taxpayer money on “educational” programs designed to sell the whole misbegotten mess to a nation that never stopped hating it.

 

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