Friday, December 20, 2013

Obamacare Schedenfreude in Fuzzy Onesies

The Obamacare Schadenfreude du jour is headlined by the notorious Pajama boy, Obamacare spokesperson (I hesitate to say spokesman for fear of causing him to break down in tears), who appears to be the result of what might happen if MSNBC anchors Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes managed to overcome their apparent antipathy for the opposite sex, and produce a young progressive for the team:

It turns out that Pajama Boy is Ethan Krupp, University of Wisconsin, Madison grad,  and OFA (Organizing for Action) employee who indeed still lives with Mom and Dad.  He is currently trying to erase his digital Birkenstock prints from the web.

Even MSNBC is laughing hysterically at Pajama Boy
When even the twits on MSNBC are laughing at you you’ve got a real problem.
The panelists of MSNBC’s Morning Joe had a good laugh Thursday at the expense of “Pajama Boy,” the bizarre Obamacare ad attempting to drive conversations toward Obamacare over the holidays.

Described as a “hipster-ish model” by co-host Mika Brzezinski, the appearance of the bespectacled, sideways-glancing, cocoa-drinking, onesie-wearing manchild drew guffaws from Joe Scarborough, and the rest could hardly get through their comments without laughing themselves.

When Brzezinski said it was an attempt to get young people to sign up, Scarborough replied, “That ain’t how you do it.”
Pajama Boy, An Insufferable Man-Child
Pajama Boy’s place in Internet infamy was secured as soon as the insufferable man-child was tweeted out by Organizing for America.

He is the face of a web ad that is the latest effort by the Obama team to leverage the holidays for conversation about Obamacare. “Wear pajamas,” the ad reads. “Drink hot chocolate. Talk about getting health insurance. #GetTalking.”
. . .
But it’s hard not to see Pajama Boy as an expression of the Obama vision, just like his forbear Julia, the Internet cartoon from the 2012 campaign. Pajama Boy is Julia’s little brother. She progressed through life without any significant family or community connections. He is the picture of perpetual adolescence. Neither is a symbol of self-reliant, responsible adulthood.

And so both are ideal consumers of government. Julia needed the help of Obama-supported programs at every juncture of her life, and Pajama Boy is going to get his health insurance through Obamacare (another image shows him looking very pleased in a Christmas sweater, together with the words “And a happy New Year with health insurance”).
Pajama Boy: Everything That Is Wrong With the World
This is how Barack Obama sees you, young people. A hipster doofus wearing a onesie and a bemused expression of detached irony as you clutch your steaming hot mug of Nestle’s Quik and contemplate your future of government dependence.

If you don’t have a problem with that, we don’t want your vote.
Ann Althouse warns us anti-progs that by making fun of Pajama Boy we're falling into the Progressive's trap:
You can mock Pajama Boy — "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie co-opted the lampooned 'Pajama Boy' image promoting Obamacare in order to send his own message about volunteering" — but to mock him is to carry the virus. It's what they thought you'd do. Don't assume Pajama Boy is worthy of nothing but contempt. If you are mean to Pajama Boy, it will bring out the love for him. I can sense it in my womanly sensors.
I'll risk it.

Michelle Obama is also out beating the jungle drums for people to nag talk about Obamacare over Christmas: 'Make It a Christmas Treat' to Talk About Health Insurance

Reaching out to "moms" on Wednesday, President and Mrs. Obama urged them to encourage others to enroll in Obamacare.

"And we urge people to reach out. And if they signed up their child, then signed up -- sign up their friends," Mrs. Obama said. "You know, if you've got grandkids, make it a Christmas treat around the table to talk about a little health care. You know, ring in the new year with a -- new coverage." (Chuckles.)
Is Obamacare Really an Improvement on the Status Quo? Apparently not.
. . . "So far, at least 4.8 million Americans have received insurance cancellations notices, but Laszewski predicts that the total Obamacare enrollment will be less than half that number on January 1.

"'My guess is that we'll have somewhere around a million and a half people signed up for Obamacare on January 1 in the states and in,' he says. The big question then, he adds, is 'why have we gone through this whole dislocation of the American health insurance system if only a million and a half to two million buy health insurance?'"
. . .One of the major defenses being offered for Obamacare -- botched rollout and all -- is that the status quo was so awful. Obamacare may have its issues, but at least it’s not the bad old days.

The problem with reformers is rarely that they’re wrong about the status quo; there are a lot of awful things in the world that could use fixing, and the reformers have usually correctly identified at least a few of them. The problem with radical reformers is that they tend to forget that things can get worse, as well as better. . .
So the consequence of Obamacare in the short-term are that a few people who don't want health coverage are forced to buy it, but a larger number of people who want it and had it either lost it, or are forced into more expensive plans, that cover less.

Unintended consequences of legislation are the rule rather than the exception.  But it's hard to claim they weren't warned.

More Megan McArdle, this time on the recent push back of the Obamacare payment deadline: More Obamacare Delays. Surprised?
Last week, the Barack Obama administration asked health insurers to allow “retroactive payment” for policies that begin Jan. 1. The move was widely seen as a response to the problems the exchanges have been having. With millions of current policies being canceled, the administration understandably wants to minimize the possibility that people will be left uninsured because of a paperwork error.

This week, Reuters reported that insurers are a little worried about the possibility that people will game the system: have a bad emergency room visit on Jan. 3, pay for their insurance Jan. 4. Unsurprisingly, I’ve seen this popping up here and there in the conservative media world. Is this yet another unfolding Obamacare disaster?
She argue not, because it's a short window, and it won't be a repeating occurrence, but:
The reason to worry about the retroactive payments is not what they will do to the system, or even the insurers, but what their introduction says about the state of the Obamacare rollout. One suspects that the administration keeps pushing back the dates for people to enroll and then pay because the number of people who have managed to do so thus far is rather disheartening. And while these measures may not be enough to destroy the insurance market, I doubt they’re enough to save it, either.
Glen Reynolds and Mickey Kaus spend 14 or so minutes bashing Obamacare:

WAPO's Wonkblog ever moving goal posts...
WaPo‘s self-styled “wonks” have cycled through a cascade of declining expectations.
Wonkblog, 10/25 –”The White House figured that if they got 7 million people to sign up for the exchanges in the first year, about 2.7 million needed to be young.”

Wonkblog, 11/26- The total numbers don’t matter. 7 million, 4 million, whatever. It’s the mix of young vs. old that’s “crucial.”

Wonkblog, 12/17–The mix don’t matter either! What’s an extra 2.5% premium increase in 2015 among friends? …

Wonkblog 12/29–Two dozen people and a dog. All we need is two dozen people and a dog. . .
Also, at some point do we get to ask what we got for a half trillion dollars?
WAPO Struggles to Find Silver Lining in Obamacare:
The Washington Post said that the poll shows while 62 percent of Americans disapprove of Obamacare, 42 percent think Obama should be in charge of the implementation of the law, as opposed to 37 percent picking Republicans. That’s likely because Republicans have expressed no interest in applying Obamacare, instead preferring to repeal it. The proof: 34 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s implementation, but 42 percent want him to continue to implement it. And on the economy, while Obama’s approval rating stands at 42 percent, Americans prefer Obama on the economy, 45-41.

But according to The Washington Post, this is a silver lining for Obama. “So, to sum it all up, on arguably Obama’s worst issue, he leads Republicans by five points,” said Obama. “On one on his best, he trails by four. Up is down. Black is white. The Minnesota Vikings won the Super Bowl.”
How Obamacare "Escaped the Chains of Law"
HHS has pretty clearly escaped the rule of law and entered a world of corporatist haggling, where political leaders and a few big industry types sit around the table and work everything out. True, they have a mutual interest in doing so–Obama needs Obamacare to work, insurers are counting on it working well enough to make them money. The interests aren’t symmetrical though—at some point, long before Obamans give up on Obamacare, insurance companies could decide to cut their losses, bail, and go make money somewhere else. That gives HHS a motive to make sure they get enough money to keep them in the game: ‘Don’t worry, we’ll make it up to you later.’ This is a policy best announced at a small table in a noisy restaurant, not in the semi-judicial proceedings required for formal rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act.

What’s so terrible about that? The “rule of law” is overrated. For one thing, it takes too long–too long to cope with panicked attempt to avert a first year flop of your signature legislative accomplishment. Some of the more celebrated examples of presidential leadership–JFK jawboning the steel companies, for example–were cases of government threatening oligopolies, corporatist-style, not government imposing uniform rules on a competitive market. Washington’s agencies have to use their discretion, and the attempt by lawyers to cabin, channel and regularize that discretion–by requiring formal “rules” and judicial review of them–was always kludgy and artificial. You wouldn’t want to have sex under the Administrative Procedure Act.* Maybe launching Obamacare is more like sex and less like imposing rules against pollution.

But … 1) The big insurers also have a self interest in avoiding too much innovation by newcomers who might put them out of business. (How does Ford feel about Tesla? How does Yellow Cab feel about Lyft?) Now that Obama owes insurers big time, will he compensate them in part by heading off such threats? The Democrats need them to make money after all–if they bail, Obamacare is in trouble. 2) Obama also has an incentive to favor companies that play ball (and companies that donate to his party) over companies that don’t. This can quickly degenerate into an extortion racket; 3) The voters are the other party conspicuously left out of the corporatist alliance of mutual blackmail. They may benefit from the end result–politicians need to be reelected after all. But the politicians won’t really be threatened unless the health care system is so bad the voters revolt and defect to the opposing party, in this case Republicans, who may be almost equally distasteful. Political parties have a more airtight oligopoly–a duopoly–than most big businesses can dream of.
Think your state has Obamacare problems? They’re nothing compared to Guam.
Because of a quirk in the Affordable Care Act's drafting, the Northern Mariana Islands and the four other American territories are subject to some parts of the law but not others. This has messed up the individual market in the Northern Mariana Islands so badly that the one plan selling policies there told the territory's top insurance commissioner it would not sell new plans for 2014.

In other words: Beginning Jan. 1, regulators expect it will be literally impossible for an individual to buy a new policy in the Northern Mariana Islands, and difficult in other territories.

"In the 50 states and D.C., everybody is crying about the Affordable Care Act not working," says Sixto Igisomar, the regulator. "You multiple those things exponentially for us."
(Territorial officials are quick to point out here that the administration has allowed other delays, to provisions like the employer mandate, when they proved too burdensome to implement. "They keep telling us they can't change the law, but they moved the mandates," says Art Ilagan, Guam's top insurance regulator.)

Well, congressional aides are obviously far more important than people living in grass skirts on far away colonies territories.

And yet another last minute second tweak of the rules in the ongoing round of Calvinball:
The Wall Street Journal reports:
The Obama administration said Thursday it would allow millions of Americans whose insurance policies had been canceled to purchase bare-bones plans next year, in another eleventh-hour tweak to the law likely to cause consternation among insurance carriers.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a group of six senators in a letter viewed by The Wall Street Journal that people whose policies had been canceled because of new requirements under the health law would be allowed to purchase 'catastrophic' plans. Those plans had previously been restricted to people under the age of 30 or individuals who qualified for a set of specific hardship exemptions.
Does Obama really think that insurance companies can write these policies, advertise them, get sign-ups and get a first payment in 11 days?

I believe he doesn't believe that.

None of these fixes are designed to be fixes. They're designed to appear to be fixes, so when people are uninsured, Obama can say, "I tried. I gave them options."

Just never the option of what he promised: Of keeping health insurance they liked.

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