Can this patient be saved?
Obamacare needs plenty of work
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tuesday, December 24, 2013, 4:05 AM
President Obama’s health reform law limps past its biggest milestone in critical condition.
Monday was supposed to be the deadline to sign up for Obamacare insurance that would start on Jan. 1. Obama then granted a signup extension to midnight Tuesday — the latest in a series of desperate, short-term fixes.
And with enrollment way short of projections, the President’s promise of near-universal coverage recedes into a doubtful future.
According to the White House’s no-doubt optimistic count, the first half of December saw an enrollment surge of 1 million, on top of the 1.2 million in October and November.
“I now have a couple million people, maybe more, who are going to have health care on Jan. 1, and that is a big deal,” Obama boasted on Friday.
Even if those numbers hold up, they’re a far cry from the Congressional Budget Office’s projected enrollment of 7 million for 2014.
Meanwhile, untold hundreds of thousands — maybe millions — are losing the health insurance they already had, as the collateral damage of Obamacare mandates.
Which is why PolitiFact.com chose the President’s oft-repeated assurance — “If you like your health plan, you can keep it” — as its “Lie of the Year” for 2013.
It’s possible, in fact, that when the fog of statistics clears, more people will have lost private insurance than gained it as a result of the President’s remaking of the health care economy — which would be a stunning indictment of his top-priority legislation.
Which is hardly recognizable as the same law that passed three years ago, so many times has Obama unilaterally waived key provisions.
The mandate for companies with 50 or more employees to offer health insurance or pay a tax penalty? Postponed to 2015.
The ability of small companies to buy affordable insurance through online exchanges? Also delayed.
When his minimum coverage regulations forced insurers to cancel hundreds of thousands of plans, Obama abruptly delayed those rules for a year, too.
When that failed to fix the crisis, he gave companies the further option of selling so-called catastrophic plans, which save money by covering only the most serious and costly illnesses and injuries.
Obama has even tinkered with the centerpiece of his law — the individual mandate, requiring most Americans to find coverage by April — by waiving tax penalties for those who previously had insurance but lost it this year.
Adding to the chaos is the lack of reliable numbers as to who is getting what insurance at what cost. An Obamacare provision calling for insurance companies to divulge such data was — you guessed it — waived by the administration.
Still to come is the predictable confusion in January, when people who think they’ve successfully signed up for coverage find out their information was corrupted or lost on its way from HealthCare.gov to the insurance companies.
And the disappointment when a preferred doctor or hospital turns out not to be in a patient’s network.
And the sticker shock as patients who chose the more affordable option get walloped for high deductibles and co-payments. And the challenge for insurers of collecting premiums that will outstrip monthly rent for many customers.
Longer term, there’s the question of whether young, healthy people will join the system in large enough numbers to make it financially sound.
As Obama admitted, he screwed up — royally and in ways he has yet to acknowledge.