Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Obamacare Schadenfreude - Funny or Just Die?

Another late edition of Obamacare Schadenfreude.  Weather today was overcast but warm, but a cold is bringing some rain, wind and much colder temperature later tonight.

The final rules for Calvinball, just before the final whistle - Obama, HHS quietly give up on the individual mandate for now:
This latest political reconstruction has received zero media notice, and the Health and Human Services Department didn't think the details were worth discussing in a conference call, press materials or fact sheet. Instead, the mandate suspension was buried in an unrelated rule that was meant to preserve some health plans that don't comply withObamaCare benefit and redistribution mandates. Our sources only noticed the change this week.

That seven-page technical bulletin includes a paragraph and footnote that casually mention that a rule in a separate December 2013 bulletin would be extended for two more years, until 2016. Lo and behold, it turns out this second rule, which was supposed to last for only a year, allows Americans whose coverage was cancelled to opt out of the mandate altogether.
But amid the post-rollout political backlash, last week the agency created a new category: Now all you need to do is fill out a form attesting that your plan was cancelled and that you "believe that the plan options available in the [ObamaCare] Marketplace in your area are more expensive than your cancelled health insurance policy" or "you consider other available policies unaffordable."

This lax standard—no formula or hard test beyond a person's belief—at least ostensibly requires proof such as an insurer termination notice. But people can also qualify for hardships for the unspecified nonreason that "you experienced another hardship in obtaining health insurance," which only requires "documentation if possible." And yet another waiver is available to those who say they are merely unable to afford coverage, regardless of their prior insurance. In a word, these shifting legal benchmarks offer an exemption to everyone who conceivably wants one.

Keep in mind that the White House argued at the Supreme Court that the individual mandate to buy insurance was indispensable to the law's success, and President Obama continues to say he'd veto the bipartisan bills that would delay or repeal it. So why areObamaCare liberals silently gutting their own creation now?
Time to start watching for the now inevitable death spiral?

In the death spiral, not enough people, and too many old and sick people sign up, increasing premiums, and further discouraging the young and healthy from paying into the system. How's that going:

White House STILL won't say how many Obamacare enrollees have paid for plans, but announces 4.2 million total through February – just 60 per cent of original goal
As of March 1 about 4.2 million Americans had signed up for medical insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, according to numbers released Tuesday by the Obama administration. But it remains unclear how many of those enrollees have put their money where their mouse is.

Combined figures published by Obamacare marketplaces in California, Connecticut, Maryland, Nevada, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington indicate that just 79 per cent of signups in those states have come with checks attached.

If those numbers were to hold up nationally, it would mean that about 1.1 million Obamacare enrollees have selected insurance plans without paying for them – bringing the actual total of Obamacare-insured Americans down to 3.3 million.
There's one spin around the drain.  Next, another couple of pirouettes.

Yikes: ObamaCare signups slowed down in February
That the 7 million people the Obama administration once hopefully projected would enroll in ObamaCare before the end of the open enrollment period on March 31st, haven’t, was to be expected; after all, they did rather tremendously screw up the rollout of their flagship website, but once they patched the federal exchange up a little (and that’s to say nothing of several individual states’ exchange calamities), signups started trickling in more smoothly. If the Obama administration was really hoping that a better-functioning website and their various PR efforts would help to spread national enthusiasm and set off a late enrollment “surge,” however… things aren’t looking too great so far. The administration just released a report on February’s ObamaCare signups, coming in at 942,000+ — a significant deceleration from January, and a lot less than their February prediction of 1.3 million. . .
The even worse news, as ever, is that the proper mix of young people evidently remain oh-so-stubbornly disinterested in following the administration’s desperate recommendations that they sign up for ObamaCare. The White House was originally hoping that 40 percent of those hoped-for 7 million enrollees would be those relatively low-risk, low-cost young people to help keep prices down, but so far, it’s not even close.
Meanwhile, back in the nation's capitol, the feds are starting to look into how some of the states have managed to botch to job worse than they did:

GAO to audit Oregon's busted ObamaCare site
Congress’s investigative arm said Wednesday it will audit Oregon’s broken healthcare exchange site, which has yet to enroll even one person despite spending $304 million in federal funds.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a letter to Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) it would look into how the funds were spent, and whether that money could be recovered from third-party contractors, among other things.

The GAO letter was in response to a request sent last month by Merkley and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), both of whom are ObamaCare supporters. The senators noted their frustration with their home-state’s exchange in their request for a GAO investigation.
As second worst, Maryland was also being investigated:
The $200 million in federal funds spent on the exchange in Maryland will be the subject of a federal probe by the Inspector General’s office at HHS, as Baltimore’s WJZ reported yesterday afternoon.

At least someone is looking into the disaster. Rep. Andy Harris, who is the only Republican from Maryland in Congress, demanded a federal probe when it became clear that Maryland wasn’t going to look into the issue:

“How $200 million could have been frittered away in that exchange,” said Congressman Andy Harris.
That's pretty easy; give the money to your friends, and don't ask too many questions until it's gone.

Hawaii has taken a different tack; thinking about taxing insurance companies for not participating in their scheme:
Of the 100,000 uninsured in Hawaii, about half are expected to be eligible for Medicaid — meaning just 50,000 people would buy individual plans through the Health Connector under the best-case scenario. And while Hawaii hoped to sell thousands of plans through the exchange’s small-business marketplace, Matsuda said so few small businesses are eligible for tax credits that officials are simply not seeing the demand. “What people can get on the Connector versus outside the Connector is the same, so there isn’t really a strong incentive for small employers to use the Connector,” he said.
Further complicating matters, only two insurers offer plans on Hawaii’s exchange, so many companies are continuing to rely on their longtime brokers (who, having essentially been cut out of the process, have no incentive to help Hawaiians buy plans on the exchange).
Hence, Hawaiian legislators’ latest proposal to cover their bums includes a plan to start charging a “fee” to insurers that decided not to participate in the state’s exchange.
The fee would help prop up the financially troubled Hawaii Health Connector, which could run out of money to pay its bills by year’s end.
“This is not something we want to do,” said Rep. Angus McKelvey, chairman of the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee. “It’s federally mandated that we have to have our exchanges be sustainable.”
Finally, no compilation of Obamacare Schadenfreude for yesterday would be complete without mentioning President Obama's attempt to promote Obamacare enrollment with this video with Zach Galifianakis on "Funny or Die:"

I'm going with "Die."

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