Nancy Pelosi is off the hook. Her famous comment that we had to pass ObamaCare to find out what was in it will live on as a shining example of legislative malfeasance and irresponsible governance, of course, but it’s no longer operative. The reason her remark resonated was because it was true: even the members of Congress who voted for the law seemed to have no idea what much of it said, and therefore they and the public they misled had to find out the hard way.
The reason she is off the hook, however, is that President Obama has now made it clear that it is scarcely relevant what the law says anyway. To review: ObamaCare required businesses with more than fifty full-time employees to provide health insurance to those workers, thereby threatening to increase unemployment and cut work hours for those employees who kept their jobs. After an outcry, the administration announced it was delaying the employer mandate for a year. But is it? Even policy analysts on the left say the employer mandate should be repealed, and some in Congress are pushing for that as well. So is there an employer mandate? Good question!
Then came the real confusion. Americans were told that if they liked their health insurance, they could keep it–“period.” This was false, and the administration knew it. Millions started receiving cancellation notices and the Healthcare.gov website wouldn’t work, so they were off their insurance often with no place to go. So the president announced–far too late to be of much help–that insurance companies were permitted to keep their customers on ObamaCare-outlawed policies for another year. But could they?
Not really. The announcement was made after insurers made the requisite plans to adjust to ObamaCare’s onerous regulations, and those plans were generally off the table thanks to the president. And even those who were able to stay on their insurance into next year were going to be dropped next year anyway. Confusion reigned, and the main effect of ObamaCare was to increase the number of the nation’s uninsured without making up for it. Colossal failure amid chaos.
But millions did now realize that they’d be out of insurance with the deadline to have such insurance looming. So as slight improvements seemed to be taking place with the ObamaCare website, they started purchasing policies. Or so they thought. The Wall Street Journal reported that the site had a 25 percent error rate, so those who went through the whole process of enrolling may or may not actually have insurance. This was a major problem, because they needed to make their first payment to officially conclude the enrollment process. So the Obama administration took the unusual step of telling the insurance companies they should cover even those who haven’t paid yet–just pretend they’re paying customers so Obama’s numbers look better.
But perhaps the most controversial aspect of ObamaCare was the individual mandate, which the Supreme Court rewrote as a tax in order to make it plausibly constitutional. It is a central feature of the law and a fundamental funding mechanism: you have to buy health insurance. Or do you?
Last night the administration announced that, with enrollment numbers far below what they need to be, it was offering “hardship” exemptions for those whose policies had been cancelled–the “hardship,” in this case, being ObamaCare itself. (Finally some honesty from the administration!) As the Washington Post reported:
The ability to get an exemption means that the administration is freeing these people from one of the central features of the law: a requirement that most Americans have health insurance as of Jan. 1 or risk a fine. The exemption gives them the choice of having no insurance or of buying skimpy “catastrophic” coverage.
Until now, the law allowed people younger than 30 to buy catastrophic coverage — an exception to the law’s benefit rules in an effort to attract young adults who have been particularly prone to avoiding coverage in the past. The law also has allowed hardship exemptions for people 30 and older who could not afford the regular coverage.
Get used to those words: Until now, the law…. The president has decided this is now a nation of men, not laws. This is obviously a terrible precedent to set, but aside from that it will also have diminishing returns. The president’s “fixes” for the law he now acknowledges is creating “hardship” are intended to relieve that hardship, but the sheer number of them and the confusion they cause are going to limit their effect.
Do you need to comply with ObamaCare? Well, that depends on which part of the “law” you’re referring to and also on Obama’s mood, for in his mind, he is the state. Health-care hardship for millions, economic disarray, the redefinition of executive power to include the whims of the president–ObamaCare’s legacy grows more troubling by the day. Now we know what’s in the law, as Pelosi said, but it no longer matters.