When President Barack Obama watched his Obamacare website crash shortly after launching Oct. 1, it gave GOP critics a field day, making their case to repeal the unpopular health care law. Since Barack signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act March 21, 2010, Obama had high hopes that he’d done a good thing for the American people. Allaying fears at the time, Obama insisted that anyone with private health insurance could keep their policy if the chose to. Little did the president know that insurance companies would cancel polices right-and-left, making it impossible for the vast majority of privately insured individuals to keep their old insurance. Under the ACA, new federal rules required insurance companies to match Obamacare minimum standards or stop issuing policies. To protect their profit margins, insurance companies began canceling policies.
Taking his road-show to Boston, Obama planned to praise the 2006 Massachusetts health care law signed by former Gov. Mitt Romney with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy by his side. Obama turned tables on Romney in 2012, praising the Massachusetts law while, simultaneously, ripping Romney for opposing Obamacare, the health care law most closely fashioned after Massachusetts. With the insurance industry lashing out, canceling millions of bare-bones policies, Obama has been scrambling to explain himself. White House officials, including Press Secretary Jay Carney, have gone into damage control overdrive explaining why so many folks have had their policies cancelled. Many individuals holding minimal policies liked the low premiums, complaining about whopping rate hikes under Obamacare. White House Officials countered that the new policies are just better.
Taking a drubbing in the polls for the government shutdown and debt crisis, the GOP went back into attack mode on Obamacare. With the website failing, Republicans called anew for Obamacare’s repeal. Obama hoped to counter the message traveling to Massachusetts to remind skeptics that it took time before Romney’s health care law worked in Massachusetts. Testifying before the GOP-controlled House Energy and Commerce Committee, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified that she needed more time to get the Obamacare website fixed. Medicare Director Marilyn Tavenner said the Healthcare.gov site should be fixed by the end of November, refusing to hazard figures of how many uninsured citizens have signed up, insisted things were improving daily. White House officials have already pushed back the open enrollment period.
Without the Healthcare.gov working properly, it’s blatantly unfair allow thousands, if not millions, of insured citizens to lose their insurance because of Obamacare’s Jan 1, 2014 effectives-date. Whatever problems exist in private insurance markets, it not the consumer’s fault they’re getting cancelled right-and-left. Because the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed with no Republican support in the Democratically-controlled House in 2009, the GOP shows no interest in fixing the problems. When there’s no bipartisan support to a major piece of legislation, it makes fixing glitches—including the website—more difficult. Insurance companies have been on the defensive, canceling policies because of increased costs under requirements of Obamacare. Providing low deductibles, minimal co-pays, mental health, prescription drugs, etc., is just too pricey.
Getting the equivalent of Post Office insurance costs more than the barebones plans of most subscribers with individual insurance. Obamacare eliminates the distinction between individual and group insurance, stopping insurance companies from qualifying applicants for policies. While there’s a long history of the insurance industry making hefty profits with major group plans, for some reason they expect to lose profit-margins with Obamacare. Canceling barebones policies is the insurance industry’s only way of protecting profit-margins under Obamacare. If there were any bipartisan support for Obamacare, Congress could prevent the insurance industry from hiking rates and canceling policies but only with bipartisan help. Without it, countless numbers of currently insured individuals stand to lose their coverage, leaving them medically and financially at risk.
How long it takes to get Healthcare.gov working is anyone’s guess. White House officials must do more to prevent gaps in coverage and give new subscribers leeway to sign-up without IRS penalties. Milking the crisis politically does little to help subscribers prevent coverage gaps and sign up more efficiently. “That same kind of outcome will happen at the national level, but it will take time,” said Jonathan Gruber, a MIT professor that helped Romney and Obama set up their health plans. Gruber admitted that only 123 subscribers have signed up so far on Massachusetts Obamcare insurance exchange, far short of the 36,000 expected. “We need to be patient and measure the outcomes in months and years, not days and weeks,” said Gruber, asking the public for more patience. If there’s any chance of Obamacare succeeding, the White House will have to do more to prevent risky coverage gaps.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.