Politics

ObamaCare “modified” again, delaying out-of-pocket cost limits

ObamaCare "modified" again, delaying out-of-pocket cost limits

The most disastrous government program in modern history has suffered another series of revisions – this time made very quietly back in February, but not noticed until now.  The New York Times describes it as “another setback for President Obama’s health-care initiative:”

The limit on out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles and co-payments, was not supposed to exceed $6,350 for an individual and $12,700 for a family. But under a little-noticed ruling, federal officials have granted a one-year grace period to some insurers, allowing them to set higher limits, or no limit at all on some costs, in 2014.

The grace period has been outlined on the Labor Department’s Web site since February, but was obscured in a maze of legal and bureaucratic language that went largely unnoticed. When asked in recent days about the language — which appeared as an answer to one of 137 “frequently asked questions about Affordable Care Act implementation” — department officials confirmed the policy.

The discovery is likely to fuel continuing Republican efforts this fall to discredit the president’s health care law.

That’s the standard NYT house style for describing Democrat disasters – they become “fuel” for Republican political “efforts.”  If a Republican president had delayed these out-of-pocket cost caps for any reason, the Times would describe it as an outrageous offense against the Sainted Middle Class.  If a Republican bill were failing as catastrophically as ObamaCare, it would not be described as an entirely political phenomenon, ammo for talking-points artillery to be wheeled out on the Sunday shout shows.

With this delay in the out-of-pocket cost caps, some group health plans will be able to maintain separate totals for doctor services and drug benefits, effectively doubling the maximum expenses faced by insurance customers.  Others won’t have any limits at all.

This was an awfully quiet “modification” of a benefit President Obama used to loudly trumpet as one of the primary virtues of the Affordable Care Act.  What’s the problem, New York Times?  Why the delay?  (Hush, you in the back row, stop giggling.  I know the real reason is “the 2014 elections,” same as it was for the employer mandate delay, but let’s hear the official reason.)

The health law, signed more than three years ago by Mr. Obama, clearly established a single overall limit on out-of-pocket costs for each individual or family. But federal officials said that many insurers and employers needed more time to comply because they used separate companies to help administer major medical coverage and drug benefits, with separate limits on out-of-pocket costs.

In many cases, the companies have separate computer systems that cannot communicate with one another.

A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said: “We knew this was an important issue. We had to balance the interests of consumers with the concerns of health plan sponsors and carriers, which told us that their computer systems were not set up to aggregate all of a person’s out-of-pocket costs. They asked for more time to comply.”

Health plans are free to set out-of-pocket limits lower than the levels allowed by the administration. But many employers and health plans sought the grace period, saying they needed time to upgrade their computer systems. “Benefit managers using different computer systems often cannot keep track of all the out-of-pocket costs incurred by a particular individual,” said Kathryn Wilber, a lawyer at the American Benefits Council, which represents many Fortune 500 companies that provide coverage to employees.

Incompatible computer systems?  The Smartest President In History and his staff of genius central planners didn’t see that coming?  It was never mentioned during all those long backroom meetings between ObamaCare’s authors and their cronies in the medical industry?  No one thought of this while they were churning out those thousands of pages of laws and regulations?  The entire point of socialized health insurance is that the government is supposed to be smarter and better able to manage the industry than private citizens.  Just wait until the final devolution to socialized medicine begins, and the same hyper-regulatory nitwits become your doctors.

Given how many insurance companies have bailed out of those tottering ObamaCare exchanges – a process under way at the beginning of this year, and probably something mentioned in back-channel communications between insurance companies and the ObamaCare commissars – perhaps another reason for booting these caps beyond the 2014 election was to keep even more nervous insurance providers from bolting in the face of higher mandatory costs.  Also, insurance companies aren’t going to eat those costs with a smile – they’ll pass them along in the form of higher insurance premiums, and Democrats are already feeling very nervous about the constant stories of premiums blowing sky-high under ObamaCare.

At any rate, despite all of the crowing by President Obama and his officials about how ObamaCare is now “the law,” it is nothing of the kind.  It’s not a law, it’s a power grab – an open-ended transfer of control to the government, which is not bound by any commitments or promises.  Avik Roy at Forbes notes that “according to the Congressional Research Service, as of November 2011, the Obama administration had missed as many as one-third of the deadlines, specified by law, under the Affordable Care Act.”  So what?  What’s the penalty against Big Government for missing all those deadlines?  None.  It doesn’t matter because it’s not a “law,” at least not from the government’s point of view.  There is no failsafe clause that shuts this God-awful mess down when some critical mass of deadlines are missed.

It doesn’t matter how much of a train wreck ObamaCare turns out to be, as long as everyone remembers who’s driving the train, and gives up on efforts to pry their hands from the throttle.

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