Commentary Magazine


Topic: employer mandate

Obama’s Boasts Won’t End OCare Debate

Two weeks after he first claimed victory after the ObamaCare enrollment deadline, President Obama was spiking the ball again as he demanded that Republicans stop trying to overturn his signature health-care law in an impromptu press conference. The excuse for the president’s appearance in front of the White House press corps today was the claim that the number of those enrolled in the plan has now exceeded eight million. That figure was, he said, enough to not only stop Democrats from seeking to avoid blame for their responsibility in foisting the unpopular law on an unwilling public but also to effectively silence its many vocal critics:

I think we can agree that it is well past time to move on, as a country…The point is, this debate is and should be over. The Affordable Care Act is working. The American people don’t want us re-fighting the battles of the past five years.

But the assumption that the government’s successful efforts to pressure or persuade several million people to sign up for ObamaCare means that it is “working” is completely unwarranted. It’s not just that the figures put forward by the administration are unreliable for a number of reasons. Even if we assumed that there really were eight million ObamaCare policyholders, the real test of this law’s viability and its ability to endure has yet to come. Not until we see just how many of those signed up are young and healthy enough to help pay for the vast number of sick and elderly covered by it will we know if it can pay for itself. And it won’t be until next year when the employer mandate and many other more painful provisions of the law are finally implemented that it will be clear whether the entire scheme can survive and how much damage it will inflict on the economy.

To speak of the debate being over now isn’t merely wishful thinking on the president’s part. It’s a conscious effort to both deceive and distract the American public from the very real problems associated with the misnamed Affordable Care Act. Try as he might, more boasts and attempts to shut up opponents won’t end this debate or ensure ObamaCare’s survival.

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Two weeks after he first claimed victory after the ObamaCare enrollment deadline, President Obama was spiking the ball again as he demanded that Republicans stop trying to overturn his signature health-care law in an impromptu press conference. The excuse for the president’s appearance in front of the White House press corps today was the claim that the number of those enrolled in the plan has now exceeded eight million. That figure was, he said, enough to not only stop Democrats from seeking to avoid blame for their responsibility in foisting the unpopular law on an unwilling public but also to effectively silence its many vocal critics:

I think we can agree that it is well past time to move on, as a country…The point is, this debate is and should be over. The Affordable Care Act is working. The American people don’t want us re-fighting the battles of the past five years.

But the assumption that the government’s successful efforts to pressure or persuade several million people to sign up for ObamaCare means that it is “working” is completely unwarranted. It’s not just that the figures put forward by the administration are unreliable for a number of reasons. Even if we assumed that there really were eight million ObamaCare policyholders, the real test of this law’s viability and its ability to endure has yet to come. Not until we see just how many of those signed up are young and healthy enough to help pay for the vast number of sick and elderly covered by it will we know if it can pay for itself. And it won’t be until next year when the employer mandate and many other more painful provisions of the law are finally implemented that it will be clear whether the entire scheme can survive and how much damage it will inflict on the economy.

To speak of the debate being over now isn’t merely wishful thinking on the president’s part. It’s a conscious effort to both deceive and distract the American public from the very real problems associated with the misnamed Affordable Care Act. Try as he might, more boasts and attempts to shut up opponents won’t end this debate or ensure ObamaCare’s survival.

The problem with the eight million figure is the same as the seven million number he celebrated earlier in the month. We still don’t know how many of these signups are mere computer forms and how many are paid insurance policies. A conservative estimate is that at least 20 percent of them are not paid and thus shouldn’t be counted. Nor is there any credible assurance that most of those being counted are people who didn’t have insurance prior to ObamaCare. Indeed, there is good reason to believe that, far from being satisfied customers whose enrollment constitutes an endorsement of the plan, many are people who lost existing insurance plans because of the advent of ObamaCare and have been forced onto the scheme where they find themselves paying for more expensive policies that aren’t what they wanted in the first place.

The president did point out that it is now believed that 35 percent of those who signed up are young and healthy. That is higher than previous estimates but still below the 40 percent that is thought to be the cutoff point for financial viability. Like the hype about the enrollment numbers, the president is hoping that merely by exceeding expectations he can convince Americans that ObamaCare is here to stay. But when it comes to assessing the law’s success or its long-term survival, expectations are irrelevant.

Nor is there any proof that most of those who stand to benefit from the plan—those without insurance or with pre-existing conditions—are actually signing up in the numbers that we were promised. The president’s challenge to Republicans to come up with an alternative that will help this segment of the population is an empty one and he knows it. If all the government wanted to do was to cover such persons, they could have done so without creating a massive government power grab that threatens to overturn the health-care industry and hurt almost as many people as it will help.

Moreover, it won’t be until next year when the politically motivated delays of the implementation of many of the law’s mandates and provisions are put in place that we will know just how serious that damage will be. Nor will we know until then just how massive the cost increases for insurance will be though even the president acknowledged they will go up. With most of the young and healthy uninsured not signing up, rates will skyrocket as companies are forced to pass on the costs of covering those with pre-existing conditions. The president’s claims that the rate of increases are going down won’t convince many who will be paying more in the coming years that the president’s boasts are justified.

The president is right—at least for the next two and a half years—when he says that ObamaCare can’t be repealed. And he’s also right that any changes will have to take into account the need to cover those who previously had no insurance. The final verdict on ObamaCare’s ability to function and the amount of damage it will do has yet to be heard. But the president is dead wrong to think that merely repeating over and over again that the debate is over will make it so.

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More ObamaCare Delays Won’t Save Dems

From its inception, the strategy behind the Obama administration’s implementation of ObamaCare has been simple: to frontload the benefits and postpone the pain and costs of this massive government intrusion into the private sector for as long as possible. This deceitful approach enabled President Obama run for reelection in 2012 on the spurious promise of extending insurance coverage to the poor and those with pre-existing conditions without being held accountable for the problems with the law that would only become apparent in his second term. Over the course of the last year, as the president’s signature accomplishment debuted with a disastrous rollout, the administration has retreated bit by bit from its insistence on implementing the entire unwieldy and gargantuan edifice on the American people immediately after Obama was safely ensconced in his second term. A dysfunctional website and the president’s broken promises about patients being able to keep their coverage and their doctors has led to the law being dismantled piece by piece as various elements were delayed. Today, yet another element of the law was similarly postponed, by executive order. As the New York Times reports:

The Obama administration announced Monday that it would again delay enforcement of a federal requirement for certain employers to provide health insurance to employees, giving medium-size companies extra time to comply. The “employer mandate,” which had already been delayed to Jan. 1, 2015, will now be phased-in beyond that date for some businesses with more than 50 employees.

The motivation for this latest delay is transparently political. By delaying yet one more element of the law until after the midterm elections, the administration hopes to save some faltering Democratic red-state incumbents who, unlike the president, are faced with the difficult task of running for reelection in the wake of the ObamaCare rollout. Though the pain of the health-care law is already being felt by millions of Americans who have lost their coverage and are facing higher costs for insurance that fails to meet their needs, Democrats are trying to do anything they can to put off the devastating impact the law will have on employers and, by extension, the economy.

But the problem here is not only the flagrantly political nature of this decision. Rather, it is the spectacle of a law being stretched to the breaking point by an administration that thinks it can selectively cherry-pick what parts of the law it will enforce. With ObamaCare enrollment numbers already falling millions short of what they would have to be for the law to be cost-effective, no amount of playing fast and loose with enforcement can disguise the fact that the scheme appears to be headed for collapse.

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From its inception, the strategy behind the Obama administration’s implementation of ObamaCare has been simple: to frontload the benefits and postpone the pain and costs of this massive government intrusion into the private sector for as long as possible. This deceitful approach enabled President Obama run for reelection in 2012 on the spurious promise of extending insurance coverage to the poor and those with pre-existing conditions without being held accountable for the problems with the law that would only become apparent in his second term. Over the course of the last year, as the president’s signature accomplishment debuted with a disastrous rollout, the administration has retreated bit by bit from its insistence on implementing the entire unwieldy and gargantuan edifice on the American people immediately after Obama was safely ensconced in his second term. A dysfunctional website and the president’s broken promises about patients being able to keep their coverage and their doctors has led to the law being dismantled piece by piece as various elements were delayed. Today, yet another element of the law was similarly postponed, by executive order. As the New York Times reports:

The Obama administration announced Monday that it would again delay enforcement of a federal requirement for certain employers to provide health insurance to employees, giving medium-size companies extra time to comply. The “employer mandate,” which had already been delayed to Jan. 1, 2015, will now be phased-in beyond that date for some businesses with more than 50 employees.

The motivation for this latest delay is transparently political. By delaying yet one more element of the law until after the midterm elections, the administration hopes to save some faltering Democratic red-state incumbents who, unlike the president, are faced with the difficult task of running for reelection in the wake of the ObamaCare rollout. Though the pain of the health-care law is already being felt by millions of Americans who have lost their coverage and are facing higher costs for insurance that fails to meet their needs, Democrats are trying to do anything they can to put off the devastating impact the law will have on employers and, by extension, the economy.

But the problem here is not only the flagrantly political nature of this decision. Rather, it is the spectacle of a law being stretched to the breaking point by an administration that thinks it can selectively cherry-pick what parts of the law it will enforce. With ObamaCare enrollment numbers already falling millions short of what they would have to be for the law to be cost-effective, no amount of playing fast and loose with enforcement can disguise the fact that the scheme appears to be headed for collapse.

The list of ObamaCare delays was already impressive when I noted the announcement in December that those whose coverage was cancelled would not face penalties for not buying ObamaCare for a year:

On July 2, the White House abruptly announced a one-year delay, until 2015, in a provision that requires larger employers to offer coverage to their workers or pay penalties. 

On Nov. 27, it deferred a major element of the law that would allow small businesses to buy insurance online for their employees through the federal exchange.

Earlier, in April, the administration said that the federal exchange would not offer employees of a small business the opportunity to choose from multiple health plans in 2014.

And in October 2011, the administration scrapped a long-term care insurance program created by the new law, saying it was too costly and would not work.

Seen in totality, it appears that ObamaCare is unraveling like a cheap sweater. But though the administration is trying to limit the number of those who are inconvenienced or hurt by the law, this latest decision is one more shred of evidence that proves the assumptions about the law’s popularity were completely unfounded. Democrats assumed that once the law began to be implemented the benefits it distributed would quickly make it as beloved as Social Security or Medicare. But it is now abundantly clear that the numbers of ObamaCare losers may well equal or exceed the total of those who will benefit from it. No amount of lawlessness on the part of a president who lacks the constitutional power to enforce only the laws or the parts of laws that he likes can conceal the enormity of the ObamaCare fiasco.

Unfortunately for the president and Democratic incumbents, the sheer number of ObamaCare exemptions and delays has grown to the point where it is no longer possible to pretend that the only problem with the law was a glitch-ridden website or Republican obstructionism. No matter how many of its ill-conceived moving parts the presidential orders say need not be implemented before November, the accumulated weight of its failure may prove too heavy a burden for Democrats who must answer to the electorate for their votes to shove this monstrosity down the collective throat of the American people.

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