It was inevitable that once the blanks contained in Obamacare began to be filled in, that even Democratic supporters of the law would start running away from it, so toxic it is going to be to any politician who supported it. The unintended — and intended – consequences are proving to be a nightmare for the health insurance consumer and the government seems powerless to do anything about it.
A hearing on Thursday of the Senate Finance Committee turned into a Democratic Obamacare bashing-fest as four powerful Democratic senators “laid into” the administration’s top regulator on new health exchanges. Senators Max Baucus, Ron Wyden, and Bill Nelson, and Maria Cantwell all lambasted Gary Cohen, deputy administrator and director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, for several snafus and screw ups in the ACA that would price millions of Americans out of health insurance coverage and make getting health insurance through the exchanges a nightmare.
Baucus questioned how well the online health insurance marketplaces would interact with what he called “archaic” computer systems at Social Security and the Internal Revenue Service.
Cantwell criticized the administration for failing to meet a 2014 deadline to start a so-called Basic Health Program—an optional program that would allow states to offer a cheaper alternative to the individual health policies sold in new online marketplaces to lower-income people. “You are overwhelmed by the details and technology, I get that point. … It seems as if the agency is taking pages out of the law,” she said. Washington state, which has a program similar to this, was hoping to have the federal Basic Health Program running next year when its program expires.
Cantwell also questioned whether the administration was delaying the Basic Health Program until 2015 as a way to increase the number of people who buy policies in the online markets. That prompted a quick denial from Gary Cohen, deputy administrator and director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. Cohen said the agency was working with states to come up with alternatives in the interim.
Nelson, meanwhile, faulted the administration for cutting funding for new consumer-owned insurance co-operatives that supporters said could help provide more affordable policies.
The fiscal cliff deal, approved by Congress on New Year’s Day, eliminated most of the more than $1.4 billion in remaining funding for the program. Nearly $2 billion in funding had already been awarded to co-ops in 24 states, but those in other states, including Florida, were shut out.
“The people of Florida are going to suffer,” he told Cohen. “I want someone to be held accountable for this.”
Cohen said he didn’t know why the White House had agreed to cut the funding as part of the deficit deal.
(H/T: Glenn Reynolds“)