Ed Driscoll

And Now, for News of Fresh Obamacare Disaster


We already know that Obama’s oft-repeated phrase from 2009 through September of 2013 that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan” was a lie. The next half of that equation — “if you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too” — will shortly be proven false for millions of Americans. Debra Saunders, writing at Real Clear Politics, calls it “Obamacare’s Next Problem: Doc Shock”:

“The bottom line is this law is working and will work into the future,” President Barack Obama said of his signature Affordable Care Act on Tuesday. It would be easier to believe the president if he hadn’t said in 2009, “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too.”

One million Californians who lose their individual plans in 2014 know that’s not true; when many saw their new premiums, they experienced “sticker shock.” Next comes “doc shock” — the revelation that many folks also won’t be able to keep their doctors.

Meet Chico, Calif., attorney Kenneth Turner. His wife found out that she has breast cancer two days before they received their cancellation notice. She’s scheduled for surgery Dec. 20 and will hear the prognosis Dec. 30. Two days later, she loses the doctor who will have operated on her, as well as other doctors she has seen for decades.

Because state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones used a technicality to force Blue Shield to grant 90-day reprieves, the Turner family will be able to extend its plan — and face two years’ worth of deductibles in 2014.

Turner is just glad the family can afford that. “A lot of people couldn’t swing this,” Turner said. “I’m lucky I can.”

California Association of Health Plans President Pat Johnston acknowledged that the state’s 19 regions can restrict access to outside providers. Johnston believes that all consumers will have access to “quality care” but not necessarily the same doctors.

How bad is it? According to PJM alumnus Richard Pollock at the Washington Examiner, “An estimated seven out of every 10 physicians in deep-blue California are rebelling against the state’s Obamacare health insurance exchange and won’t participate, the head of the state’s largest medical association said.”

California offers one of the lowest government reimbursement rates in the country — 30 percent lower than federal Medicare payments. And reimbursement rates for some procedures are even lower.

In other states, Medicare pays doctors $76 for return-office visits. But in California, Medi-Cal’s reimbursement is $24, according to Dr. Theodore M. Mazer, a San Diego ear, nose and throat doctor.

In other states, doctors receive between $500 to $700 to perform a tonsillectomy. In California, they get $160, Mazer added.

Only in September did insurance companies disclose that their rates would be pegged to California’s Medicaid plan, called Medi-Cal. That’s driven many doctors to just say no.

Obamacare’s myriad problems are exacerbated because, as Michael Barone writes, “Obamacare’s architects plugged their ears and misled public”:

russian-revolutionary-obamacare_parody_12-1-13-1The legislation was unpopular when it was proposed, while it was passed and in the months and years afterwards.

Barack Obama seldom mentioned it in the 2012 campaign except for the provision allowing “children” under 26 to stay on mommy and daddy’s policies.

The architects of Obamacare also had to deal with loyalty.

Polls have consistently shown that about 80 percent of Americans are satisfied with their health insurance and doctors. They have chosen each at one point or another and were not eager to change absent some serious aggravation.

There was discontent in the late 1990s when health maintenance organizations limited options. But the move for restrictive legislation–voice–fizzled when aggravated consumers switched to different policies–exit–while those satisfied with HMOs stuck with them–loyalty.

Recognizing this, President Obama assured Americans dozens of times that if they like their insurance and their doctors they could keep them.

Unfortunately, that assurance was always intended to be false. A good short-term campaign tactic maybe, but bad long-term policy strategy.

Obamacare’s architects worked stealthily to prevent exit from the kind of insurance policies they think people should have. The president’s credibility has been shredded and serious liberals like the Brookings Institution’s William Galston worry that big government policies generally will be discredited.

So far the Obamacare Democrats have succeeded in ignoring voice — the public’s demand for repeal or major revision of the legislation. But despite their claims that once legislation has been passed it must remain law forever, voice can overturn it. The Medicare prescription drug plan passed in 1988 was repealed in 1989.

Which may explain this headline yesterday at center-left National Journal: “Young Americans Expect Obamacare to Be Repealed.” 

The expectation that Obamacare will be overturned may also explain why so few college students are signing up for it — even those wearing Obama T-shirts at DC’s Howard University, as PJM’s Michelle Fields discovered yesterday:

[jwplayer config=”pjmedia_eddriscoll” mediaid=”69432″]

Of course, the president was deeply involved, every step of the way, in the creation of his namesake Website and the underlying product it attempts to sell — and he focused his keen attention on its creation like that proverbial laser:

A new Government Accountability Institute (GAI) analysis finds that from July 12, 2010, to Nov. 30, 2013, the president’s public schedule records zero one-on-one meetings between Obama and Sebelius. Equally shocking, over the same period, the president’s calendar lists 277 private meetings with his other Cabinet secretaries (excluding full Cabinet meetings).

Given these startling findings, and the fact that the White House calendar did not reflect meetings prior to July 12, 2010, GAI researchers then performed a second analysis using another respected recorder of presidential activity, the POLITICO presidential calendar. The results: Just one April 21, 2010 entry was found listing a White House meeting between Obama and Sebelius—and even that was a joint meeting with then Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

The eye-opening calendar findings shed new light on some of the curiously worded statements Obama has uttered in the aftermath of the calamitous HealthCare.gov launch. For example, at his Nov. 14 press conference, the president said:

“I was not informed directly that the website would not be working as—the way it was supposed to. Had I been informed, I wouldn’t be going out saying, ‘Boy, this is going to be great.’ You know, I’m accused of a lot of things, but I don’t think I’m stupid enough to go around saying, ‘this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity,’ a week before the website opens, if I thought that it wasn’t going to work. So, clearly, we and I did not have enough awareness about the problems in the website.”

Of course, we now know that contractors had, in fact, notified Sebelius months prior that serious problems persisted and that time was running out for proper testing. However, if Obama was not meeting regularly one-on-one with his HHS secretary to help navigate his signature legislative achievement safely into harbor, it’s hard to discern exactly what the president knew and when he knew it.

But hey, as his former secretary of State would say, what difference does it make? Certainly not much to the media. They’re far more interested in the Music Man than the false bill of goods he’s selling — using an Alfred Hitchcock-inspired analogy, Ace of Spades writes that the MacGuffin doesn’t matter to Obama’s acolytes in old media; only that the hero survives the crisis that befalls him:

Watching Chris Matthews interview Obama, I was struck by just how uninterested in policy questions Matthews (and his panel) were, and how almost every question seemed to be, at heart, about Obama’s emotional response to difficulties– not about policy itself, but about Obama’s Hero’s Journey in navigating the plot of President Barack Obama: The Movie.

As with a MacGuffin in the movie, only the Hero’s emotional response to the MacGuffin matters.

Again and again, Matthews and his panel focused not on weighty questions of state, but on what toll these important-sounding MacGuffins took upon the Star of the Picture, Barack Obama.

Matthews was not terribly interested in hearing about the problems with Obamacare, or how Obama planned to address them.

But he was very interested in learning how Obama was coping with the challenges.

Matthews didn’t care all that much about disputes over the budget. But he was keenly interested in Obama’s thoughts on his opponents in such struggles.

Read the whole thing; it’s a brilliant post. Of course, one reason why the MacGuffin doesn’t interest Matthews and his ilk at NBC, is that the underlying technology and the product it sells have been such enormous disasters. Because if the technology worked and the product was popular (two very different things, incidentally), the MSM would be all over the Obamacare Website like Wired magazine back in the mid-1990s when it routinely ran 5,000-word articles on the technology powering the Internet at the peak of its gold rush dot-com fever days, or the way the press covered the nuts and bolts of the X-15 and the Saturn V at the height of the space race.

Hitchcock’s best films are celebrated to this day, because he and writers scripted and storyboarded every scene to the nth detail, to the point where walking onto the soundstage, lining up the actors, and firing up the Arriflex was merely a formality for Hitchcock. Similarly, he may not have ever uttered the words, but legendary 20th century architect Mies van der Rohe has always been associated with the phrase “God is in the Details.” However, even as the Obama White House attempts to grab a sixth of the American economy, we have a president who doesn’t care about the details, a Health secretary who doesn’t care about the details, a former speaker of the House who doesn’t care about the details (“We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it”), and a media that doesn’t care about the details.

The country’s in the very best of hands, as the Professor likes to say.

Related: From Charles C. W. Cooke at the Corner: “Obama: I’m Not Incompetent, Government Is” — and we should follow the president’s advice and trust government for our medical needs…why?

As it happens, the president appears to know full well that the public sector doesn’t do things very well. He told Chuck Todd in November:

You know, one of the lessons — learned from this whole process on the website — is that probably the biggest gap between the private sector and the federal government is when it comes to I.T. ..

Well, the reason is is that when it comes to my campaign, I’m not constrained by a bunch of federal procurement rules, right?

So, again, why design your central achievement around a website and boast about how amazing it is going to be?

Perhaps my favorite excuse for Obamacare, however, is that none of this would have happened if the much more efficient states hadn’t forced the obviously incompetent federal government to get involved. Too much more of this sort of talk and Obama will be receiving invitations to address the Federalist Society.

Last month, Roger L. Simon described the president as “Barack Obama, Libertarian Manufacturing Machine.” As I joked last month, writing the caption for the illustration above Roger’s post, we are the Objectivists we have been waiting for!