President Obama to address disastrous ObamaCare rollout
President Obama is scheduled to give an address today in which he will address the disastrous launch of ObamaCare, unquestionably the greatest disaster of the Internet era. Some media accounts refer to this address as a “mea culpa,” although nothing about the President’s past history suggests he is likely to offer a sincere apology or take responsibility in any meaningful way, beyond possibly uttering the magic words “I take responsibility,” and perhaps even performing the hallowed “buck stops here” ritual performed by politicians who have no intention of standing wherever the buck actually stops.
It’s more likely the “mea culpa” will involve some combination of blaming Republicans for the problems (he’ll claim it’s all because they were reluctant to pour more money into his boondoggle, and maybe even reference the government shutdown as a symbol of their stubbornness), dropping some propaganda about how great ObamaCare is going, and deflecting criticism from the White House and top Administration officials, expressing confidence in embattled Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. There is a near-metaphysical certainty that he’ll reference a letter or two from constituents who still like ObamaCare. [Update - evidently he'll have a few enrollees standing behind him as human props when he speaks.]
After several days of Sebelius defiantly insisting that she won’t testify before Congress on the ObamaCare disaster, Fox News reports that on Sunday, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) assured the nation that “ultimately, Secretary Sebelius will testify.” Why this assurance had to come through Senator Durbin is anyone’s guess. He seems to be the only one saying this at the moment. Of course, “ultimately” might mean “sometime in 2017.”
It’s getting harder for even this zero-accountability Administration to claim Sebelius is too busy to testify, since she’ll be attending a luxury Kennedy Forum gala in Boston the night before congressional hearings are scheduled to begin, she had plenty of time to go on Jon Stewart’s comedy show (turning in one of the most disastrous performances in recent memory) and she keeps popping up at “town hall” events where nobody can get logged into ObamaCare.
Despite the comprehensive inability of Americans to use the ObamaCare website successfully, even when the HHS Secretary is actually standing in the room with them, the Administration released another pile of fishy statistics, claiming that Healthcare.gov has enjoyed 19 million unique visitors and accepted 500,000 applications. (Less that three percent of visitors buy a policy… even though they are required to make a purchase under threat of legal penalty! Behold the dazzling business acumen of Barack Obama!)
That doesn’t come close to matching up with reports from numerous states that have claimed single- or double-digit enrollments, and in any event there’s no reason to believe any statistic coming from a bug-riddled system that supposedly needs another three or four weeks of chewing on punch cards, grinding gears, and clicking abacus beans before it can produce a total of people who have actually purchased policies. Instantaneous unique visitor totals, but no idea how many people have completed the process – a number we know is extremely low? That’s as transparent a fib as Obama’s promise that nobody would take your beloved health insurance plan away.
Media figures have admitted that they know the Administration is lying about the ObamaCare statistics and their inability to cough up a total number of policies sold, but they’re not even slightly upset about being employed as useful idiots. As John Nolte at Breitbart News observes, right after casually remarking that she knows Team Obama is dishonestly hiding the actual figures, Julie Pace of the Associated Press wistfully remarked, “We’ll see if the pressure starts to mount and if we get to a point where the Administration feels they need to preset us with more data before mid-November. You can assume, though, that the number is fairly low.” Of course, the “pressure” she refers to would have to come from the very same media that doesn’t mind being lied to by President Boyfriend.
As for Obama’s famous lie about being able to keep your plan if you like your plan, NBC News reports that “health plans are sending hundreds of thousands of cancellation letters to people who buy their own coverage, frustrating some consumers who want to keep what they have, and forcing others to buy more costly policies.” A tsunami of such letters slammed into unsuspecting policy holders last week:
Florida Blue, for example, is terminating about 300,000 policies, about 80 percent of its individual policies in the state. Kaiser Permanente in California has sent notices to 160,000 people – about half of its individual business in the state. Insurer Highmark in Pittsburgh is dropping about 20 percent of its individual market customers, while Independence Blue Cross, the major insurer in Philadelphia, is dropping about 45 percent.
Both Independence and Highmark are canceling so-called “guaranteed issue” policies, which had been sold to customers who had pre-existing medical conditions when they signed up. Policyholders with regular policies because they did not have health problems will be given an option to extend their coverage through next year.
Consumer advocates say such cancellations raise concerns that companies may be targeting their most costly enrollees.
They may be “doing this as an opportunity to push their populations into the exchange and purge their systems” of policyholders they no longer want, said Jerry Flanagan, an attorney with the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog in California.
Insurers deny that, saying they are encouraging existing customers to re-enroll in their new plans.
So hundreds of thousands of people are getting dumped into the exchanges they can’t use… and once the tech problems are fixed, they’ll find themselves facing higher prices for policies with ludicrous deductibles. A big part of ObamaCare’s structural flaw is that it mandates all sorts of coverage people don’t really need, tosses in the guaranteed cost burden of the fabled “pre-existing condition coverage,” and then keeps the resulting premiums out of sheer-lunacy territory by including enormous out-of-pocket costs. ObamaCare needs about 3 million “young chumps” to make its numbers work… and those college-aged revenue targets are begin asked to choose between fighting with a garbage web site for days to buy a useless policy with a deductible of six thousand dollars or more, or paying the much cheaper tax/penalty and doing without coverage. (Or staying on Mom and Dad’s plan, which as you may recall is an option created by ObamaCare’s classification of 26-year-old men and women as “children.”)
Which brings us to the aspect of this catastrophe that nobody in the Administration, least of all the President, wants to talk about: it may already be too late to “fix” Healthcare.gov. This thing had to work almost flawlessly on Day One, because it had to rope in the young suckers before they had a chance to think about what Obama was doing to them, and talk about it on social media. Weeks of embarrassing tech glitches are snark fodder for the online generation, which routinely enjoys online services far more complex, and with vastly higher traffic loads, than ObamaCare’s measly 19 million unique visitors in three weeks. But even worse is the danger that they’ll share stories about the sky-high premiums they’re expected to pay for coverage greatly inferior to what they used to enjoy at work or school.
The Administration’s tales of shock at the “unexpectedly high demand” for ObamaCare are ludicrous, not just because even the questionable figures for web traffic they have released aren’t very high, but because they had to be counting on much higher traffic during launch week. Remember, they spent a lot of money marketing this as a big event to young people. They knew the suckers had to make their purchases fast and get trapped in the system before they realized what a bad deal it was, or investigated the relatively low cost of paying the individual mandate tax to escape from it. Three weeks into worst fumble of Big Government’s unhappy history, that ship may have already sailed.
Update: Forbes notes that even the jacked-up premiums discovered by the few people who managed to apply through Healthcare.gov are probably falsely presented as lower than the real premiums will be, because they include cost-sharing subsidies the Administration has not yet adjusted to reflect sequestration. Needless to say, in the private sector, this would lead to big-ticket lawsuits from angry customers, and possibly even jail time for “company” executives.
Forbes’ Scott Gottlieb suggests that Obama will probably resist the temptation to saddle insurance companies with the shortfall, because it would probably ruin then and cause even more insurance plans to collapse. Instead, he’ll probably blame Republicans and try to rack up more deficit spending to cover it.
Update: David Freddoso perceptively wonders how many of the alleged “ObamaCare enrollments” we’ve heard about are actually people signing up for Medicaid. Almost all media accounts conflate the two, but there’s a big difference between getting into the expanded Medicaid welfare program and buying an ObamaCare insurance policy. One eye-popping example Freddoso cites is Minnesota, which reported 3800 exchange “applicants”… but only about 400 of them are actually looking to buy an insurance policy. The rest of them were dumped into Medicaid.
Update: The Republican National Committee has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the actual ObamaCare enrollment figures, which the Administration obstinately refuses to release.