Friday, February 14, 2014

Obamacare Schadenfreude in the Wake of the Storm

After yesterday's Schadenfreude post, I went out and cleared the driveway, which as I suspected, was not a horrible job, as the 2 inches of snow left in the rain was very wet, and held together nicely when pushed.  Rain continued off and on the rest of the day, but being 32.5 F all day it didn't reduce the snow on the ground much more. About sunset, or, since we never saw the sun yesterday, at dusk, we had a thunderstorm, where the accompanying precipitation was some rain, snow, sleet hybrid.  I call it thundersnush.  Unlike parts of D.C. and Virginia, however, the actual amount of that precipitation was rather small.  Finally, just after dark, it began to snow again, depositing maybe a quarter of an inch.

This morning, the sun is out, the temperature is just below freezing.  The snow is still here, and turned into snocrete by the freeze  and the driveway is a sheet of pebble ice that's almost impossible to walk on.  But, with the sun out, and the temperature near freezing, the sun should take care of that shortly.

In the wake of the storm, there's still plenty of Obamacare Schadenfreude, as the shut down of the Federal government seemed to have no effect on the production of new bad news.

The fight du jour appears to be over enrollment numbers, with the administration and it's media allies touting reports that enrollment was improving, and critics pointing out that it still sucked, and was probably being overstated by duplicitous data.

Insurers less optimistic than WH on ObamaCare “enrollment” numbers"
The White House jumped at the latest “enrollment” figures from the ObamaCare program as proof that the program had turned the corner, and supporters followed suit. Less enthused were those who actually sell the product through the exchange. CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson reports today that insurers are treating the figures with considerable skepticism — even if the numbers turn out to be accurate:
But the rosy portrait shatters under an alternate interpretation by insurance industry representative Robert Laszewski of Health Policy and Strategy Associates.
“They made a big deal about the age results,” said Laszewski after reviewing the HHS numbers. “But the greater challenge for them is the low number of people enrolling. There is no way you can get a good spread of risk with such a small percentage of the total eligible signing up.”
CBS News also received a guarded analysis from a source involved in implementation of the Affordable Care Act who supports Obamacare.
The source said the bump of young invincibles to 27 percent of January enrollees was “progress,” but added “they neglect to point out that they need roughly 40 percent to help achieve a balanced risk pool” necessary under a successful business model.
“3.3 million people is still a relatively small proportion of the population that ‘should be’ interested,” added the source, who is not authorized to speak on behalf of the administration and does not wish to be identified.
Breitbart is less generous, essentially accusing the administration of fudging the enrollment numbers: Obamacare Enrollment Hits 3.3 Million (but not really)
HHS announced Wednesday that a cumulative total of 3.3 million people have now signed up for private insurance through the Obamacare exchanges but that figure includes hundreds of thousands of individuals who have failed to make their first premium payment.
Three weeks ago Breitbart News looked at a mid-January announcement by HHS that enrollment had surpassed 3 million and estimated what that meant for the entire month:
Since December 28th enrollment is up about 850,000. If we assume the three million milestone happened mid-week then the total at the end of January should be in the neighborhood of 1.1 million.
The actual January enrollment announced today was 1,146,000.
The administration continues to say it cannot estimate how many people who have selected plans have actually paid a first month's premium since the payment system has not been built. Experts and journalists who have spoken to insurers say the total percentage who have not paid is around 20 percent. This means it's possible HHS is now double counting some people who were dropped after failing to meet a mid-January deadline but are now applying again.
Obamacare Enrollment Rate Slows Markedly In January
On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that enrollment in the Obamacare private exchanges increased by 1,146,071 in January. In December, HHS reported 1,788,000 enrollees in the month of December. That suggests a drop-off of approximately 500,000, or 29 percent.

Yet this underestimates the true extent of enrollment dropoffs. The HHS reporting period for December was four weeks, beginning on 12/1 and ending on 12/28. The reporting period for January was five weeks, beginning on 12/29 and ending on 2/1. This suggests that in December, enrollments averaged 447,000 per week, compared to 229,000 in January, or a 49 percent drop-off in new enrollees.
"Youth Enrollment Day" as big a hit as you might imagine. Zero show up to rally:

Others continued to rag on the administration for demanding a "loyalty oath to Obamacare" required by business who would attempt to take care of the new "waiver" of Obamacare requirement on small and medium business:

And Obamacare is now advertising in the Onion:
Get Covered Illinois is taking a cue from Colorado’s Brosurance ads and squandering taxpayer money on ads at alleged humor website The Onion.
In a push to enroll more “young invincibles,” the state’s official Affordable Care Act outreach vehicle, Get Covered Illinois, has forged a partnership with satircal news site The Onion to run a series of advertisements and marketing material online.
Under terms of the agreement, the state will pay Chicago-based Onion Inc. $150,000 for $300,000 worth of online banner ads, a video, an editorial and a custom news section that will feature Get Covered Illinois, said Mike Claffey, a Get Covered Illinois spokesman.
Will we be able to determine the difference between an Obamacare ad and a satirical news piece?

Obama's New Unilateral Law: Making Businesses Sign a Loyalty Oath
When Gabe heard about this yesterday -- the Treasury's new claimed rule that businesses must sign a statement swearing they are not cutting their staff (or avoiding increasing their staff) in order to avoid Obamacare's disincentives for expanding your staff (that is, different Obamacare's strictures kick in at 50 or 100 employees) -- he had a simple question:
On what statutory authority Treasury is relying for the certification requirement?
I suppose that's a quaint question now, isn't it? Gabe seems a naif for even asking it. We all now understand that Obama feels that any law he feels should be a law is a law, whether Congress has gone through the bother of passing a law or not.
Ed Morrissey discusses it himself, and also links Andy McCarthy discussing it.

Let's just cut the chase. Obama wants businesses to swear to this, under penalty of perjury, because he would like to use these statements -- whether true or false -- to argue that Obamacare is not causing reductions in hiring.

Note he has created a powerful coercive force to get businesses to lie on these things. A businessman, being asked by the Treasury to swear he's not reducing staff to avoid Obamacare, understands exactly what Treasury wants: Treasury wants him to claim this. If the businessman claims this, even if falsely, Treasury will leave him alone.  If a businessman decides to to tell the truth and say, "Why, actually, I am reducing staff to avoid Obamacare, as is my right," he can expect that Treasury will take an interest in him. An auditing interest.

It is thus in businessman's interest to perjure themselves, and Treasury would like them to perjure themselves.
Jonathan Turley: The left’s indifference to Obama’s executive power grabs is beginning to border on a cult of personality

AllahPundit said everything that needs to be said in one word:


IRS ObamaCare “self-attestation” for businesses: adding irrationality to lawlessness
Three days after Treasury announced that businesses would have to certify under penalty of perjury that their staffing changes have nothing to do with ObamaCare, we have yet to hear one legal justification for such a demand. Yesterday, NRO’s Andy McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, called this “lunatic,” and “adding irrationality to lawlessness” as Obama’s arbitrary treatments of the law collide:
Obama’s central command policies are inevitably crashing into each other. The waiver may provide some relief to endangered Democrats, but it also gives employers an incentive to lay off employees in order to get under 100 and qualify for the illegal waiver. So Obama has unilaterally legislated illegal conditions on the illegal waiver. To wit, employers will be required to certify to the IRS,under penalty of perjury, that the waiver was not a motivating factor in the company’s hiring and firing decisions. As Fox News’s Chris Stirewalt quips, “To avoidObamaCare costs you must swear that you are not trying to avoid ObamaCarecosts.”
So now Obama, like a standard-issue leftist dictator, is complementing lawlessness with socialist irrationality.
Read the whole thing.

Obama’s Health Care Mandate: My Whim Is My Command
. . .Von Mises offered that as his central point on why the Soviet “experiment” (as NBC called it in the opening ceremonies at Sochi last week) was doomed to failure. Centrally-planned command economies cannot succeed because they are inherently incompetent.

Hayek took von Mises’ argument a step further. Not only would such command economies fail, Hayek argued, but they would produce increasingly arbitrary governance and eventually erode the rule of law altogether. “[T]he use of the government's coercive powers will no longer be limited and determined by pre-established rules,” he predicted. “The law can, and to make a central direction of economic activity possible must, legalize what to all intents and purposes remains arbitrary action.”

If observers didn’t find themselves convinced by 20th-century history, they can learn Hayek’s lesson in the compressed course of Obamacare 101. . .
And David Frederosso take many paragraphs to make a point I made yesterday in a few words:

Reading Obamacare before passing it would have been a waste of time

From the Department of "We're being led by the very best," Colorado Health-Exchange Director Indicted for Fraud, Theft
The director of Colorado’s health exchange has been placed on administrative leave after the state discovered she had been indicted for stealing from a non-profit, theDenver Post reports:
[Christa Ann] McClure, 51, pleaded not guilty Feb. 6 in federal District Court in Montana to eight counts of theft and fraud from a nonprofit housing agency in Billings.
She was indicted Jan. 16 and notified her current Denver employer, the state-sponsored health exchange, on Monday, a few days after the story broke in Montana media, Connect for Health spokesman Ben Davis said in a telephone interview..
The 12-page indictment alleges that, while serving as executive director of the federally funded Housing Montana, McClure, between 2008 and 2010, paid herself “significant sums” for consulting services, although she was already on the payroll as a full-time employee.
She also made payments to her family and used federal money for personal travel, to pay family bills and to buy consulting services, the indictment alleges.
She also is accused of charging homeowners for a $750 warranty that did not exist, converting a laptop for personal use, inflating the hours she was to be compensated and writing herself a $21,000 check to which she was not entitled.
Poorer counties facing especially high premiums, few choices, little competition through ObamaCare
“My guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition. That’s how the market works. Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75 percent of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. In Alabama, almost 90 percent is controlled by just one company. And without competition, the price of insurance goes up and quality goes down.”

So sayeth President Obama
, but so far, his crowning legislative achievement has directly resulted in a whole lotta’ restrictions on consumer choice, while his brand of top-down government-led “competition,” well… isn’t, really.
Consumers in 515 counties, spread across 15 states, have only one insurer selling coverage through the online marketplaces, the Journal found. In more than 80% of those counties, the sole insurer is a local Blue Cross & Blue Shield plan. Residents of wealthier, more populated counties in the U.S. receive lower-priced choices than those living in counties with a single insurer. …
Fixed it!

CBO Obamacare job loss worse than reported
The CBO report concludes that the equivalent of 2.5 million jobs will be lost due to Obamacare, primarily because of decisions made by workers. But, like Holmes's dog that didn't bark, the report may be even more damning because of what isn't there.

The CBO minimizes -- and even willfully ignores in some cases -- decisions that employers will make about jobs because of Obamacare provisions that punish them: penalties for not providing insurance, or insurance that doesn't carry the Obamacare stamp of approval; higher costs to provide expanded, and sometimes unnecessary, coverage; costs of maintaining and reporting Obamacare documentation, etc.
"Uncertainty in several areas -- including the timing and sequence of policy changes and implementation procedures and their effects on health insurance premiums and workers' demand for health insurance -- probably has encouraged some employers to delay hiring. However, those effects are difficult to quantify separately from other developments in the labor market, and possible effects on the demand for labor through such channels have not been incorporated into CBO's estimates of the ACA's impact."

An omission of such importance is startling given that, as the CBO report concedes, there are multiple reasons to believe Obamacare will reduce hiring, such as the penalty paid by mid-to large-level employers who don't offer Obamacare-approved health insurance. "That penalty will initially reduce employers' demand for labor and thereby tend to lower employment."
For people still worried about the operation of the website (as opposed to the damage the law will create if and when it's operated as written rewritten by executive fiat), Preznit "I know nothing" Schultz's Obama's deniability took a hit when it was revealed that Commissar Secretary Sebelius visited the White House numerous times during the implementation of the Obamacare.
While Sebelius has said the president was not aware of’s problems, more than 750 pages of documents obtained by The Hill through a Freedom of Information Act request show she made scores of visits to the White House.

The documents reveal that Sebelius met with or attended calls and events with Obama at least 18 times between Oct. 27, 2012, and Oct. 6, 2013, including at least seven instances in which the two were scheduled to discuss the new healthcare law, according to the secretary’s draft schedules.

She had breakfast or lunch with Pete Rouse, considered one of Obama’s closest advisers, at least three times. Moreover, Sebelius had scheduled calls or meetings with Valerie Jarrett, an Obama confidante, and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough.
Sebelius also met with or had calls with Chris Jennings, then a White House senior healthcare adviser, at least seven times in the roughly yearlong period.
I'm sure all they discussed was the weather.

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