The Republicans and Democrats agree about so few things. However, one thing that they are in agreement about is that the current phase of the Obamacare implementation has been less than desirable.
After having more than 3.5 years to prepare, the White House and Department of Health and Human Services, in the words of B. Obama, “fumbled” this fall. Unfortunately, in his greed for fame, he violated the first rule of football. Ball-handlers are taught that if they fumble the ball, rather than continuing to try to gain yardage, they should fall on the ball, secure it, and wait until the next play to try to advance.
Unfortunately, the White House apparently does not understand football. Last week, Mr. Obama admitted that he had “fumbled” the implementation of Obamacare but rather than calling a halt to the “play” he continued to try to score points with the American people.
The first “fumble” was the website created by a division the division of HHS that is tasked with building and operating the federal “Marketplace” where citizens, who do not live in states that have built their own exchanges, can go to get federal subsidies to help them pay high health insurance premiums.
CMS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, gave America a faulty website, www.healthcare.gov, on October 1. Although they assured congress and the American people that the website would be fully functional by October 1 in congressional hearings and through advertisement, the site has been plagued with numerous problems.
After telling America that the exchanges were needed so that 45,000,000 uninsured Americans could get health insurance, less than 27,000 Americans, in 36 states were able to enroll in health insurance plans through the federal “Marketplace” in October.
The second “fumble” was when, a comment that B. Obama made during the height of the Health Care Reform debates of 2009, was taken out of context and used against him.
In 2009 Obama promised that Americans could “keep their current health insurance if they like it.”
At that time, his comment was misleading. According to him, 60% of Americans get their health insurance through their jobs. In that case, the business owner, and not the employee, controls what the group health insurance plan looks like. Unfortunately, many Americans have to be satisfied with the health insurance plan their employer offers. They are not given the choice to keep it if their employer wants to make a change. Obama would have been more correct if he said, “If your employer like your current health insurance, you can keep it.”
Depending on what set of numbers you use, roughly 5% of the American population use Individual Health Insurance policies. They are the people who should have been able, “to keep their health insurance if they like it.” Unfortunately, the PPACA placed a deadline of the day that the bill was signed into law by the president.
Those people who already had a health insurance policy on March 23, 2010 were “grandfathered.” As long as they do not make any major changes to their existing health insurance plan, they are allowed to keep it.
People who bought health insurance after March 23, 2010, made major changes to their plans, or work for employers who have made changes, do not have the same “grandfather” protections. They have no choice but to get one of the approved Obamacare plans in 2014.
Here is the problem that has cost Obama so much personal credibility. State, and not Federal, law requires all health insurance companies to send insureds written cancellation notices several weeks before cancelling someone’s health insurance plan.
Obamacare makes it illegal for health insurance companies to continue to support non-grandfathered plans after January 1, 2014. According to state laws, they have no choice but to send out cancellation notices.
These notices have caused millions of Americans, who do not fully understand Obamacare (who does?) to say that Obama lied when he said, “If you like your health insurance, you can keep it.”
Technically, he did not lie to Americans who had Individual Health insurance policies prior to March 23, 2010. (If he lied to anyone, it was to Americans who get their health insurance through group plans at work.)
As long as those Americans do not make any significant changes to their plans, they are not required to get an Obamacare plan.
Unfortunately, since, in the words of Nancy Pelosi, “We have to pass it to see what is in it,” many Americans did not realize that Obama’s promise, “If you like your current plan, you can keep it.” had a deadline of March 23, 2010.
The cancellation notices, that insurance companies mailed in October, in compliance with state laws, came as a surprise to millions of Americans. They were under the impression that they could keep their health insurance if the wanted to and were surprised to learn that their only option was to enroll in a government approved plan.
In a press conference on November 14, just a few weeks before the largest segment of Obamacare is scheduled to take effect, Mr. Obama, by-passed congress again to change the law.
He told the American people, without consulting the insurance industry, that insurance companies would be allowed to stop any policy cancellations they wanted to for 2014 and reinstate Americans to their older policies, provided, they send them a letter to let them know that their older policy does not cover all of the Essential Benefits required by the PPACA.
There are two problems that I see with Mr. Obama’s press conference announcement.
By seeking an administrative solution to the problem he created, Mr. Obama is attempting to change a law that was passed when both houses of congress were controlled by his Democratic Party, without consulting with congress.
In the elections of 2010, the American people voted to change the balance of power in Congress. By electing a majority of Republican representatives in the House, Mr. Obama is no longer able to get everything he wants. If he were to open discussions on Obamacare again in congress, there is a chance that changes would be made to his law that he does not like.
As a result, he has a history of changing Obamacare without consulting congress.
As a business man, I find the timing of his announcement curious. It can be, and probably will be, argued that the White House has known that the insurance companies would have to mail out cancellation letters a couple of months before January 1, 2014, at the time the PPACA was signed into law. Since that time, the insurance industry has attempted to abide by the law that congress gave them and the rules that have come from the White House.
I find it self-serving, for a president, for political reasons, to set up the insurance companies for blame just 6 weeks before a major change in the marketplace happens. After-all, the insurance companies did not even want these changes. They are the result of the whims of Mr. Obama.
In my opinion, it is not fair for him to set them up to take the blame if they do not completely change their business models to accommodate him. They were not the ones who said, “If you like your health insurance, you can keep it.”
My rant in this post is already too long. I will save my comments about Mr. Obama’s “fumble” with the federal website for tomorrow.
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