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“)
If Congress sticks to the schedule and implements the rest of Obamacare next year, it will be, quite simply, catastrophic. The government is not ready. The consumer is not ready. The states are not ready. Funds are short. The impact of the law on doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, not to mention ordinary Americans, simply hasn’t been fully investigated. It is amazing that nearly 3 years after passing this monstrosity, we still don’t have a handle on how much it is really going to cost the government or consumers.
The about-face of these Democrats is a phenomenon worth pausing over. Many formerly supportive constituencies have grown wary of Obamacare in recent weeks as we’ve learned more about the effects it will have on the health care system. But these Senators’ 180-degree turns are something more severe.
The fate of the Democratic party in America over the next decade is tied to Obama’s healthcare reform. If it is seen to be a success, America could trend Democratic for the foreseeable future. If it fails, liberalism as we’ve known it will take a massive hit. But, so far, support for Obamacare has been waning instead of waxing. Even a recent piece by Talking Points Memo that placed the blame for Obamacare’s potential failure on Republicans noted that the law’s unpopularity with the public at large was the number one threat to its success. Democrats are getting nervous and consequently are trying to put some distance between themselves and the ACA.
This is probably one area where the Democrats’ effort to blame Republicans for something will backfire. This is their baby. They wanted to make history and they did. They bragged about it for two years. They ran on a platform that made it a centerpiece of their governance.
No amount of backfilling or misdirection is going to absolve them from their guilt when the crap hits the fan and the American people realize what the Democrats have done to them. There may be a few who will be grateful: those under 26 who can still be insured by their parents, those who have a pre-existing condition, the near-poor who will be added to the rolls of Medicaid in those states who go that route.
But beyond that small minority, there will be precious little support for the monumental monkey wrench Obamacare will throw into the workings of our health care system.