Obamacare Panic to Enter Even Stupider New Phase

I want to follow up on what I wrote Friday about those who are deciding that because of a) web site problems and b) the largely manufactured controversy over people who have one private insurance plan but now face the unfathomable horror of moving to a different private insurance plan, the Affordable Care Act is an unrecoverable disaster that has destroyed Barack Obama's second term. I'm sensing that this is about to move into a new phase of inane speculation that we should think about before it starts.

I'll just use one article as an example. This morning, under the headline "Why Obamacare Is On Life Support," Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal all but declares that the law is about to be repealed. "Unless the HealthCare.gov website miraculously gets fixed by next month," he writes, "there's a growing likelihood that over time, enough Democrats may join Republicans to decide to start over and scrap the whole complex health care enterprise." That's so blindingly stupid I'm almost not sure where to start, but let's give it is a shot. First, would it really be "miraculous" if Healthcare.gov got fixed by next month? It's a website. Yes, a complicated one, and yes, one that had many problems. But it isn't as though those problems are somehow beyond the ken of human ingenuity to solve, requiring heavenly intervention. The administration isn't trying to achieve faster-than-light transport or make us all immortal. It's a website. It may not be perfect, but it'll work.

Kraushaar then goes through some counting of vulnerable Democratic seats in both houses to argue that it's a real possibility that a repeal of the entire ACA could not only pass, but pass with a wide enough margin to override a veto from the President. His main evidence is the 39 House Democrats who voted last week for a symbolic Republican proposal to undo some of the individual-market reforms; he thinks the the number for full repeal of the ACA will be even greater. But that's completely backwards. It would take some kind of as-yet-unforeseen utter catastrophe to transform even those votes into a vote for full repeal. As Jonathan Bernstein says, "There's an enormous difference between playing along on a symbolic vote and abandoning a policy Democrats are stuck with, like it or not." Not even House Democrats from swing districts are dumb enough to think that voting to repeal the law would serve their political interests, despite Kraushaar's bizarre and demonstrably false assertion that already, "Even [the ACA's] most ardent supporters are running for the hills."

If you're going to start speculating about repeal, you have to confront what's going to happen six weeks from now, on January 1. Let's have a little reminder:

  • Millions of people will begin getting coverage through Medicaid. Repeal would mean kicking these people off their insurance.
  • Millions of people will begin getting subsidies to pay for private insurance. Repeal would mean taking away their subsidies, making it unaffordable for them to get insurance.
  • Denials for pre-existing conditions will be officially over. Repeal would mean that once again, insurers could deny people coverage if they've ever been sick.
  • Annual limits on coverage will be outlawed. Repeal would mean that people will once again start being forced to pay huge medical bills, in many cases forcing them into bankruptcy, if they have a serious illness or accident.

And that's not to mention the parts of the bill that have already gone into effect, like "rescission" becoming illegal, children not being allowed to be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, or young people being allowed to stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26. You think some news stories about people in the individual market having to pay more for a new insurance plan tug at lawmakers' heartstrings? Wait until you see the stories about the 5-year-old girl with leukemia who'll get kicked off her coverage if Republicans in Congress have their way. Right now we're talking about a few people who are supposedly the "losers" in the ACA, but the most they've lost is some money they'll have to pay for a more comprehensive plan. If you repeal the law, the country would be overflowing with people whose losses are genuinely catastrophic.

January 1 is the end of any talk of repeal, and Republicans know it—as many of them have been saying all along, once you start giving people benefits, it's all but impossible to take them away. That doesn't mean there isn't still work to do, and it doesn't mean there aren't things that could go wrong. Nor does it mean there might not be piecemeal fixes to one or another provision debated in the future; there almost certainly will be. But unless you think that in the next six weeks Republicans are going to manage to put together a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress to repeal the ACA—something you'd have to be nuts to believe—it's never going to happen.

I realize that there's an impulse as a reporter or a pundit to cast everything in the most dramatic terms possible. "Things are neither perfect nor disastrous" is a much less interesting assertion to make than "Everything has changed! Earth-shattering developments are afoot!" But that happens to be the truth.

Comments

"...as many of them have been saying all along, once you start giving people benefits, it's all but impossible to take them away."

If you want proof of that, listen to all the whining and crying whenever anyone suggests doing away with corporate welfare.

Once again, to beat a dead horse: It’s not the website, it’s just not! No one, except for political reasons, gives a care about the website. People are upset because their health coverage is CHANGING in ways they didn’t want it to. We wanted, AND needed a reduction in health care costs. Yet what we are getting is an INCREASE in costs (unless you are poor)
The author on this site seems to have a perpetual lack of empathy for the harm the left is causing in their big push to improve healthcare:
1) The Barrack Obama website had a post in regards to the ACA, and how great it was that it helped some 25-year old lady could keep her doctor! Yet MILLIONS are losing their doctors. I have been with the same hospital since BIRTH, My MOTHER was born there. I, as of January 1st will no longer be able to go there. Instead I have to drive to the next town. Is it equitable for millions of people to lose their preferred doctor just to provide some benefit to someone else?
2) For many people, health care costs are nearly DOUBLING! Yes doubling, yes greater that 100% increase! I know, Not everyone is having such a huge change, but many are. These are not the rich; these are the struggling middle class. Also, we are NOT stupid, yes there are plans on the exchange, some even have the same monthly premiums, but the coverage sucks and they have significantly INCREASED out of pocket costs. AND, yes I can still get coverage similar to my old coverage, but the monthly Premiums are much, much higher.
3) Yes it’s HORRIBLE that the hypothetical 5 year old girl with leukemia could be denied coverage. BUT is it any better to TAKE health coverage away from someone else’s little girl to provide it to her? Because that is what is happening now, and is going to continue to happen. People who had $1,500 deductible insurance are now being moved on to ObamaCare $4,000 deductible insurance AND paying more per month for the privilege! These people will either not be able to afford to go to the doctor, or will have HUGE financial hardships when they do.

The real irony is that there's nothing "left" about the ACA. It is an insurance carrier subsidy scheme that started with the Heritage Foundation. The Democrats added some expensive sweeteners at taxpayer expense, including extra goodies for the insurance companies. And now that the first people are getting screwed by this right-wing plan, you have phony "progressives" pissing all over the victims.

It's utterly loathsome to watch. The longer the Democrats hold onto this disaster, the worse it will be for them.

More shilling and disinformation from a phony "progressive" shill.

4 million individual policies cancelled, affecting 10 million or so people. But that's only 5% of the total, so Paul Waldman feels comfortable simply writing them off. Let's see what he says in 2014 when the cancellations hit the small group market, and another 50 million people are affected.

He continues with the "junk coverage" mantra, which he KNOWS is false. All it takes is some reporting, which Paul Waldman is afraid to do. I've now talked with three people in varying occupations, each in different states, some covered by state exchanges and others covered by the federal exchange. All of them report drastic reductions of coverage and/or big increases in premiums.

Continue to focus on premiums, and ignore what people pay to use health care: the provider networks, the co-pays, the deductibles, the out-of-pocket maximums. Yes, there are premium subsidies. They insure that the insurance carriers are paid. And if there are underwriting losses, those are covered too. But the policyholders who have seen deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums skyrocket? No help.

Pre-existing condition exclusions have been illegal for 20 years for people who maintained continuous coverage. Now they will be illegal for everyone, including those who hop on and hop off of coverage. Not that anyone will do such a thing. No, never.

Next year, when the cancellations spread, today's rumbling will become a VOLCANO. The Democratic Party bought into Obama's embrace of the Heritage Foundation's health care, and now we're seeing the results: Major cost increases for the policyholders and soon (maybe) more covered lives (premiums) for the insurance carries, plus indemnification for their losses.

If this clusterf*** had been pushed through by the Republicans who invented it, the so-called "progressives" at the American Prospect and elsewhere would be screaming bloody murder. But now that the Democrats were stupid enough to ride this trojan horse, here you are, pissing on the victims and shilling for the insurance companies.

You should be utterly ashamed of yourself, Waldman. Neither you nor your publication have an ounce of independence. No wonder the so-called "left" in this country has feet of clay, given how poorly they are served by the likes of you.

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