Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wednesday Morning Obamacare Schadenfreude

We had the passage of a weak storm front yesterday afternoon and evening, with a few drops of rain, a few rumbles of thunder.  As usual, they day after we find cooler (back down to the low 50s, compared to 75 yesterday afternoon), with cloudless blue skies, and 25 mph north winds.  Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

Now we know why Kathleen Sebelius hung on to her job as Secretary of HHS so long; she didn't want to get thrown into Obamacare: Sebelius stays on just long enough to get government benefits
When the embattled Kathleen Sebelius announced her intention to resign as secretary of Health and Human Services, she pledged to stay in President Barack Obama’s cabinet until her replacement was confirmed by the Senate. Turns out, there may be a financial incentive for the former Kansas governor to take her time getting out of Washington.

Next week, Sebelius becomes eligible to receive a government pension and continue certain taxpayer-funded health-care benefits when she hits her five-year employment mark with the federal government, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) policy indicates.

Under OPM rules, Sebelius, who was sworn into office on April 28, 2009, would be eligible to receive these benefits after completing five years of continuous service in the federal government.

While she announced her resignation on April 11, Sebelius does not mark her five-year anniversary with the federal government until April 28. Her successor is not expected to be sworn in until after that date. The Senate, which is on recess, comes back into session the same day Sebelius hits the five year mark.
As a private citizen, and presumably moving into some consulting job, it's quite likely that Kathleen would fall under Obamacare's individual mandate.  To be fair, she might also have some health benefits from her previous work as a Representative in the Kansas legislature, or as governor of Kansas, or from her husband, a federal judge.

Via Wombat-socho's "Live at 5: 04.22.14" , the White House is now implicated in a questionable scheme to raise money for friendly non profits to extort encourage enrollment: White House involved in soliciting money for pro-ObamaCare group, watchdog says
Until now, outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was the only official known to have solicited financial support for Enroll America, a nonprofit that promoted enrollment for the Affordable Care Act. But a Government Accountability Office report released Monday detailed not only the secretary's involvement but that of a White House adviser.

According to the report, though HHS officials said they were "not aware" of any federal government officials outside the agency soliciting funds for Enroll America, a representative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation told GAO "about a discussion" in 2012 between one of their staffers and the "Deputy Assistant to the President for Health Policy."

Though not named in the report, this would have been Jeanne Lambrew. The GAO said they were told the official nudged the foundation to give a "significant" contribution.

The report said: "According to RWJF, this official estimated that Enroll America or other similar national enrollment organizations would likely need about $30 million to finance a national outreach effort. RWJF told us that the official also indicated a hope that RWJF would provide a significant financial contribution to support such efforts, but did not make a specific funding request on behalf of Enroll America or any other outside entity."
Let's imagine the shoe on the other foot for a minute.  Image Secretary of Energy Sarah Palin soliciting the Koch brothers to give their $30 million to the Heartland Institute and Tea Party groups to fund a public relations campaign to support fracking development in the states which, like Maryland and New York, have resisted the urge to help their citizens get jobs by allowing fracking.  Can you doubt for a second that the "progressives" would be up in arms, and demanding "accountability" if not actual scalps?

Another sign of Sebelius "success": Looking at Costs and Risks, Many Skip Health Insurance
For every individual who did sign up, there were others who resembled Mr. Huber: people who have decided to stay uninsured for now, despite the law’s requirement that most Americans get coverage this year or pay an income tax penalty of $95 or more.

A common thread running through stories of the unenrolled is cost. Many people either do not qualify for federal subsidies or believe that the assistance is not enough to make insurance affordable, interviews with consumers and experts suggested. According to enrollment counselors in several states, people who have gone without health insurance or major illness for years can be especially resistant to investing in coverage.
. . .
But a New York Times/CBS News poll of uninsured people in December found that of those who did not plan to get coverage, half said that cost was the main reason. Nearly three in 10 said they objected to the government’s requiring it, while about one in 10 said they felt they did not need it.
Healthcare coverage so good and cheap they have to coerce you to buy it. And the public definitely is not buying it.  New poll confirms: Obamacare debate definitely not “over”
Obama’s central theme in the briefing room was that the national debate regarding Obamacare is now “over.” Because he says so. A new poll from Fox News indicates that voters disagree. Note well that this nationwide survey was conducted in mid-April, two weeks after Obama first began spiking the enrollment football and reaping thinly-disguised “Obamacare comeback!” headlines in the media. Winning streak:
Stasis. Another Obamacare-related question asked registered voters whether the law would be an significant factor in their 2014 voting decisions. Nearly one in five said it would be the single biggest factor, with an additional 54 percent calling it an “important factor.” Less than a quarter of respondents said Obamacare was either a small or non-factor to their vote. A recent USA Today poll revealed that the more a given voter cares about the new law, the more likely he or she is to oppose it.
Libs worry that distrust of Obama over Obamacare lies could derail immigration reform: Party Paranoia Could Destroy Hopes of Immigration Reform
It is increasingly likely that Republicans will do well in this year's midterm elections not because of who they are, but because of who they are not. They are not President Obama's party; they are not the party that passed the Affordable Care Act. Given that the Senate majority will largely be determined this year in states where association with Obama and his signature legislative achievement are the political kiss of death, it's both the map and the mood that are giving Democrats a tough time this year. In November, Republicans have the additional advantage of facing a smaller midterm electorate, one that is older, whiter, more conservative, and more Republican than the substantially larger and more diverse electorate that we often see in presidential years.
. . .
Although the Senate did pass comprehensive immigration reform last year, the chances of any kind of significant reform passing the House this year are low at best. Optimists hope that in June or July, after many Republican incumbents have their primaries behind them, or possibly in a lame-duck session after the election, the House will take up the issue. The smart money is against that happening.

First, the votes just don't seem to be there. Second, House Republican insiders, even those who privately would like to see a bill pass, are pessimistic because many in their ranks do not trust that Obama and the Democrats won't hang them out to dry. Their fear is that even if the House passed something, which would undoubtedly create enormous divisions and political problems in their conservative base, they have little confidence that Democrats wouldn't move the goalposts on them, leaving the GOP with no progress on immigration reform but having a badly divided party. Their suspicion, correct or not, is that Democrats would rather have a club to beat Republicans with than really address the immigration problem. Paranoid or not, this is an example of how the fundamental lack of trust between the leaders on each side gets in the way of solving problems.
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

Finally, just to show I can be even handed, Megan McArdle looks at the Obamacare enrollments with an analytical eye.
. . .The enrollment number wasn’t a surprise by the time it dropped -- that morning, I guessed it would come in at between 7.8 million and 8 million. But it was certainly a surprise compared with a month earlier. I think it’s safe to say that on March 1, few people, on the left or the right, had considered that nearly 50 percent of total signups would occur in the last month and a half. That’s a rate much higher than we saw in Massachusetts and is, as I recently noted, a stunning testimonial to the American powers of procrastination.

And whatever others might have thought, I certainly didn’t expect it to be that high; until relatively late in the month, I thought it would squeak in at around, or even under, 6 million. I was expecting a surge like in December, not the immense tsunami of applications we actually got.

The demographics were also a surprise to me, and a nasty one at that. You may recall that the administration originally forecast that almost 40 percent of exchange signups needed to be young adults in order to keep the insurance pool stable. A pool with too many old and sick people would drive up the price of insurance, perhaps driving more young and sick people out of the pool, leading to a price spiral.

By March, the percentage of young adults in the pool was hovering at around 25 percent. As I wrote back then, to get to the 38.5 percent that the administration was originally targeting, they needed for there to be a huge surge in enrollment -- and for that surge to be much, much younger than the previous waves of enrollees.

They certainly got the surge. And the surge was indeed somewhat younger than previous waves ... but not nearly sufficient to bring the demographics in line. . .
Death Spiral or Insurance Company Bailout. Take your pick.

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