When will the charade stop?
The New York Times reports this morning that yet another feature of Obamacare is proving unworkable. The Administration has postponed to 2015 implementing a feature of the law that limits out of pocket medical costs to $6350/year for individuals, $12,700 for families. Furthermore, the paper adds, “some group health plans will not be required to impose any limits on a patient’s out-of-pocket costs for drugs next year.”
The Times reports that “[t]he grace period has been outlined on the Labor Department’s website since February, but was obscured in a maze of legal and bureaucratic language that went largely unnoticed.” It was buried among 137 “frequently asked questions”, too. Do you suppose someone hoped it would go unnoticed?
It is an open secret in Washington that, despite the president’s harsh anti-insurance industry rhetoric, Obamacare was sold to the industry as a boon to them. When was the last time the government required every citizen to buy your product. In strictly business terms, those in the industry who took the deal and quietly backed the bill have proven foolish. For also in the bill were a series of incentives that are poised to drive many and perhaps all Americans into the government’s own plan. By stealth and in slow motion, the bill moves us to a single payer system. But now it turns out that even the parts of the law that are in the open and part of what the insurance companies knowingly bought into are so unworkable that the companies have received exemption from them for at least one year.
Is this a surprise? Just before the multi-thousand-page Obamacare bill passed, then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously said that we had to adopt the bill to find out what was in it. Considering that something like one-sixth of the U.S. economy was about to be upended, hers was perhaps the most irresponsible statement made by a leader of any branch of our government in the history of the Republic.
So it is a big “duh” that the list of unworkable features in this ill-reviewed bill gets longer by the month.
Last month the White House acknowledged the act was unworkable for major employers when it postponed for a year a requirement that they offer coverage to all full-time employees.
Later a group of major unions complained to House and Senate Democratic leaders that a key threshold in the legislation was unworkable for their members. The threshold defines full-time employment at 30 hours a week rather than the standard 40 hours. The unions were alarmed that (entirely predictably) companies were cutting back their members’ hours to reduce the number of employee coming under the law.
For small businesses seeking to grow, the mandate is similarly unworkable. The Affordable Care Act provides that at 50 employees, employers who do not provide certified coverage must pay the government’s $2,000/employee penalty or premium or tax (depending on who’s talking). This means that the cost to such a company when it makes the hire that puts them over the top is salary and benefits plus $2000 (the penalty/premium/tax) x 50 (total number of employees) = $100,000, an impossible burden for large numbers of small employers. Not surprisingly, many small businesses are reported to have resolved to stop their growth just below the threshold.
We are hearing that the government’s online healthcare exchanges are proving unworkable. The official in charge of developing the software to make the exchanges run is said to have all but thrown up his hands. The features in the law are too complex even for the army of software designers the administration has deployed. “Let’s just make sure [the standard of service delivered is] not a third-world experience,” he recently said.
The president famously promised that, if you like your current health coverage, you could keep it.” Ah, but there was a catch. Apparently health insurance contracts change as frequently as iPad apps, and for the same reason – to fix a bug here, update a feature there. In other words, these updates are part of why we continue to like our coverage. Most of us are unaware of them, because we receive our policies through our employers, who oversee those details. But, according to reports, just one fix and, under the terms of the law, we no longer have the same policy we previously did. Through our employers, we can then be required to switch to government prescribed plans, which suggests that most of us will find Obamacare unworkable to our satisfaction.
So let’s add up the score: unworkable for insurance companies, unworkable for big business, unworkable for small business, unworkable for unions and their members, unworkable for federal administrators, unworkable for employees who like their current plans (virtually all of us, according to polls). And, as governors Bobby Jindal and Scott Walker reported in a recent Wall Street Journalop-ed, thanks to “inconsistent, arbitrary and frustrating” federal guidance, the parts of the law that states are asked to implement are unworkable for them, too.
Which brings me to two questions: For just whom is Obamacare workable? And what sense does it make to keep it on the books?