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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Saving Obamacare from Democrats

For the most part, the insurance cancellation controversy is not firmly grounded in reality. Of course, there are the horror stories that don't stand up to scrutiny, but there is also the mostly unreported fact that those who are losing their insurance are doing so because the Affordable Care Act makes terrible insurance coverage illegal. It's not so much a story about Obamacare cancelling coverage, as it is one of insurance companies scrapping policies rather than fixing them to make them less of a rip off. This became apparent when the subject of one such ObamaScare story was presented with the sort of plan she would qualify for under the ACA; "I would jump at it," said Florida resident Dianne Barrette.

The problem isn't so much that people are finding their coverage plans canceled, the problem is that the website where they can shop for new insurance isn't working at the moment. For people like Barrette, the fact that better and more affordable insurance exists is cold comfort, since she can't actually apply for it. In other words, it's not the cancellations that is the problem demanding a fix, it's the website -- or, at least, the mechanism for shopping for insurance. Allowing people to continue to get insurance coverage that's highway robbery is no fix at all, since that was one of the big problems in the first place.

Still, that fact isn't keeping some panicky Democrats from threatening to buckle under the weight of the story.


The Hill: House Democrats on Wednesday expressed increasing frustration at the Obama administration’s inability to improve the rollout of ObamaCare.

Democrats said they’re worried about "being dragged into this non-stop cycle" of bad news about the ObamaCare rollout, rather than celebrating the successes of the law they helped to pass, a Democratic aide said.

"They're voicing those frustrations with the administration," the aide said following a Democratic Caucus meeting where administration officials got an earful from exasperated lawmakers.

With the House vote just two days away, many Democrats are urging the White House to come up with an administrative alternative to legislation sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) that would allow insurance companies to offer their old insurance plans.
Upton's bill would allow insurers to continue to offer this crap insurance until 2015 -- and this is supposedly a fix for a problem that will most likely be resolved in a matter of weeks. It is insane. And it would be bad for consumers. The ACA keeps costs down by getting nearly everyone into the risk pool with something at least approaching comprehensive coverage. By allowing insurers to continue to offer these cut rate plans that cover almost nothing, congress would be guaranteeing higher insurance premiums and screwing consumers by allowing insurers to screw other consumers. In the insurance economy, someone else's lousy or nonexistent coverage really is every one's problem.

And the politics. My God, the brainless and lousy politics...

Jonathon Chait: Undermining Obamacare in order to placate angry individual insurance holders makes no sense even on narrow political terms. People losing individual insurance they like are angry right now, but they’re a tiny minority of the market, and their anger will fade over time as the exchanges come online. Higher premiums would affect far more people, and their impact would be felt much closer to the midterm elections. Imagine it's next year, insurers are pulling out of the exchanges, rates are rising, all because of a law Congress hastily passed the year before — is that a better situation?
No, it's not a better situation. It's a boneheaded move that actually makes everything worse in the long run. Despite what the media is saying, Obamacare is not in a tailspin. Only congressional Democrats can put it into a tailspin. And fear of a plane crash is a really lousy reason to crash the damned plane deliberately.

What's needed is a fix for the purchasing problem. And that can't possibly be insurmountable. Computers haven't been around forever, you know, and people were buying things in exchanges long before the word "website" stopped being complete gibberish. If you want to fix the problem, then fix the real problem -- i.e., that of getting better and more affordable coverage to people who need it -- rather than address the pretend problem that the sensationalist media and Republicans want everyone to freak out over.

Congressional Democrats are going to need an alternative and they're turning out to be very bad at coming up with one themselves -- or of even recognizing a lousy one when they see it. The White House is going to have to step forward and provide some leadership. Otherwise panicked Democratic buffalo are in danger of stampeding themselves straight over a cliff.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]

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