Healthcare

The latest Obamacare delay is the most politically motivated one yet

This article originally appeared on heartland.org.

I can’t stop laughing at this latest Obamacare delay, the most brazenly political one yet: kicking the can to two weeks after the midterm elections instead of two weeks before. I assume they’re going to delay the employer mandate again, too?

The Obama administration plans to push back by a month the second-year start of enrollment in its health program to give insurers more time to adjust to growing pains in the U.S. law, a move that may stave off higher premiums before the 2014 congressional elections.

The enrollment period, previously scheduled to begin Oct. 15, 2014, will now start Nov. 15, said an official with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services who asked not to be identified because the decision isn’t public. The change is important to insurers that need more time to evaluate the first year of the government-run marketplaces. Technical problems are undermining efforts to attract a broad array of customers to the new markets, a prerequisite to keeping plans affordable in the long run. Keeping prices from spiking next year is “absolutely critical” for President Barack Obama if he wants to preserve his signature legislative achievement, said Ana Gupte, a Leerink Swann & Co. analyst. “The death of this law would be for health insurance companies to price policies for 2015 in a way that premiums skyrocket,” said Gupte, who is based in New York, in a telephone interview. “At that point, it’s a death spiral and it’s over. So he needs to do something.”

Anyone who talks about this delay as anything but a crass political move designed to benefit Democratic politicians is not a serious person. Oh, hello, Jonathan Gruber:

The young, healthy people needed to balance the cost of care for older consumers aren’t likely to sign up in large numbers until March, said Jonathan Gruber, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist who helped design the law. “This is an important business for them and they want to make smart decisions about how they set their rates,” Gruber said in a telephone interview. “It’s in the nation’s interest they get time to make those decisions.”

I see – the nation’s interest, you say? Well that changes everything. In the meantime, for those Hill staffers for whom Obamacare isn’t delayed, the relatively small premium hikes are leading to all sorts of griping.

Veteran House Democratic aides are sick over the insurance prices they’ll pay under Obamacare, and they’re scrambling to find a cure. “In a shock to the system, the older staff in my office (folks over 59) have now found out their personal health insurance costs (even with the government contribution) have gone up 3-4 times what they were paying before,” Minh Ta, chief of staff to Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), wrote to fellow Democratic chiefs of staff in an email message obtained by POLITICO. “Simply unacceptable.” In the email, Ta noted that older congressional staffs may leave their jobs because of the change to their health insurance.

This shock to the system was thoroughly expected, if only Ta had bothered to read anything not from a supportive source. Even the politicians themselves are getting hit:

Don’t expect to hear the Ohio Republican complain about his personal price spike, but he’s one of many older lawmakers and aides who are just finding out how much more they will have to pay as they move from the old Federal Employees Health Benefits system to coverage in the District of Columbia’s new health insurance exchange, as required by a provision in the Affordable Care Act and subsequent federal regulations. That will be true, too, for some consumers across the country who are transitioning into the exchanges.

Boehner and his wife, Debbie, currently pay a monthly premium of $433 for family coverage from Blue Cross Blue Shield, with a deductible of $700, according to his office. Last week, the speaker began shopping for a new plan in the D.C. exchange, a search his office drew attention to by tweeting pictures of him trying to enroll.

This is what he found at the market: To keep a similar plan, the Boehners would have to pay $802 per month in premiums, with a deductible of $2,000.

By all means, our intellectual superiors in Washington ought to pursue an “administrative fix” for this, which I’m sure won’t anger any constituents. They just liked their plan, and want to keep it.

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