Friday, November 15, 2013

Cruising the Web

One professor of law doubts that Obama even has the legal power to push back the date on the cancellation of individual plans. (H/t Hot Air) And I still don't see how this solves the problem of people facing cancellations - all he's done, if insurance companies and states go along with him, is delay the pain for another year to get past the election. Do you think people will forget that their plans were cancelled this year and are scheduled to be cancelled next year? Will they forget Obama and the Democrats patronizing them by informing them that their plans were "substandard" as if people are too dumb to figure out if a plan fit their needs. And now the hope is that they're too dumb to remember that Obamacare is still ending those plans next year. I guess that assumption of stupidity on behalf of the American people is typical of the Obama approach to public apology.

The motivation for Obama's apologies cum sort of a fix announcement yesterday was purely political. He wanted to give Democrats an excuse not to vote for Fred Upton's "Keep Your Health Plan" bill. But Obama's fix is just a postponement of the actual result of people losing plans they liked. It's temporary. They'll still be losing their plans - just maybe they'll forget about that until after the 2014 elections. As Kimberley Strassel explains, this still won't get Democrats off the hook.
And the White House "fix" doesn't save Democrats from having to take a vote on the Upton bill. A yes vote is a strike at the president and an admission that the law Democrats passed is failing. A no vote is tailor-made for political attack ads and requires a nuanced explanation of why the president's "fix" is better than Upton's. Which it isn't. Politicians don't do nuance very well. This explains why the Democratic leadership on Thursday promised to soon introduce its own legislation that would "reinforce" the White House change (and, it hopes, provide its members better cover).

The White House "fix" was likely also groundwork to shift the blame for canceled policies to insurers and state regulators, trusting the public won't notice the difference between "can" and "may." It is highly unlikely that most insurers "can" rip up their business plans (rates, policies, eligibility, actuarial tables), get state regulator approval, reprogram their computers, send out notices and new explanations, give consumers time to think, and then re-sign people up in the one month that remains before the Dec. 15 deadline. But as Mr. Obama has now said they "may," and you can bet he'll blame the failure for this to happen on anyone but his administration.

The question is whether blame-shifting is even possible. The Obama announcement was designed to quell the cancellation furor, to push it beyond next year's midterms. But what's becoming clear to horrified Washington Democrats is just how successfully they re-engineered health care. ObamaCare's pieces are vastly complex, intricately linked, and built upon each other. For Democrats who want political cover, there are no "fixes" around the edges.

The White House's Thursday play will not end cancellation notices. Fixing simply gives more Americans access to the budget-busting premiums and limited networks within the exchange. Grandfathering, to the extent it happens, only pushes those premiums higher. So does a delay in the individual mandate. Further exemptions, say to taxes, strip money Democrats are banking on. Extending enrollment periods does nothing but provide Americans more time to contemplate their miserable choices.

Grandfathering current and canceled plans only adds to the confusion. And the White House's decision to do this administratively reopens questions over the legality (and illegality) of the White House's many ObamaCare actions. This doesn't restore credibility; it further undermines it.

A Democratic aide this week told The Hill that the party was concerned about "being dragged into this nonstop cycle" of bad news. It is way too late for that, especially if the GOP continues to stay out of the way and let this be about Democratic liabilities and divisions. The only real "fix" for this law—and for Democratic political pain—is to scrap it
Charles Krauthammer explains how the disaster of the Obamacare rollout is casting doubt on the whole liberal agenda.
Lastly, deception. The essence of the entitlement state is government giving away free stuff. Hence Obamacare would provide insurance for 30 million uninsured, while giving everybody tons of free medical services — without adding “one dime to our deficits,” promised Obama.

This being inherently impossible, there had to be a catch. Now we know it: hidden subsidies. Toss millions of the insured off their plans and onto the Obamacare “exchanges,” where they would be forced into more expensive insurance packed with coverage they don’t want and don’t need — so that the overcharge can be used to subsidize others.

The reaction to the incompetence, arrogance and deception has ranged from ridicule to anger. But more is in jeopardy than just panicked congressional Democrats. This is the signature legislative achievement of the Obama presidency, the embodiment of his new entitlement-state liberalism. If Obamacare goes down, there will be little left of its underlying ideology.
This could be a very salutary disaster.

Politico examines how Congressional Democrats are starting to lose trust in President Obama. It sure took them long enough. But they're co-dependents. They can't escape his shadow since they've been voting lockstep for his policies since he arrived there.
For five years, congressional Democrats have often sprung to his defense — or remained quiet — when Obama’s been in trouble, even though many have long complained that he and his team have ignored their interests and concerns on a wide variety of legislative and personal matters. Now, Democratic sources say, Obama can expect that lawmakers will be quicker to criticize him — and distance themselves from his policies — than they have in the past. With Obama now free of the demands of running for reelection, the gloves are off, they say.

Congressional Democrats are on the line in 2014. Many of them voted for Obamacare, defended it in 2010 and will have to stand in front of voters next year and explain the problems.

Even President Obama is learning that the federal government doesn't work as well as non-government work as he yesterday acknowledged how much more difficult it is to get things done in the federal government compared to his own campaign.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: think it's fair to say that we have a pretty good track record of working with folks on technology and IT from our campaign, where, both in 2008 and 2012, we did a pretty darn good job on that. So it's not that -- you know, the idea that somehow we didn't have access or were interested in people's -- people's ideas I think isn't accurate.

What is true is that, as I said before, our IT systems, how we purchase technology in the federal government is cumbersome, complicated and outdated. And so this isn't a situation where -- on my campaign, I could simply say, who are the best folks out there, let's get them around a table, let's figure out what we're doing and we're just going to continue to improve it and refine it and work on our goals.

If you're doing it at the federal government level, you know, you're going through, you know, 40 pages of specs and this and that and the other and there's all kinds of law involved. And it makes it more difficult -- it's part of the reason why chronically federal IT programs are overbudget, behind schedule.
You don't say, Einstein.

It's about time that Obama recognizes the inefficiencies of government work. Now all we need is for him to recognize that those same inefficiencies translate into government policy for health care or education.

Mary Katharine Ham follows up on what she calls "Obama's ignorant ominscience"
So, when you know something pertinent about federal technology failures that could increase the chances of success for your pet project, do nothing. When you know absolutely nothing about the subject of your ambitious pet project to remake 1/6 of the economy, try to do everything. And, when you do nothing with the knowledge you do have to prevent the Charlie Foxtrot created by your insistence on acting, ahem, audaciously with knowledge you don’t have, insist that your lack of knowledge is proof of your intelligence. Hey, I’m smart enough that if I knew this was going to be such a lumbering catastrophe, I wouldn’t have said those dumb things about how it would be great!

He knows everything. And yet he knows nothing. The reason for this is the animating feature of Obama’s leadership style, if you can call it that, is not presuming to know all the facts and micromanaging every project ala Jimmy Carter. Nor is it acknowledging he doesn’t know all the facts and surrounding himself with experts he trusts ala George W. Bush. And, no, it’s not combining an intellectual strength and a mind for policy detail with a populist flair ala Bill Clinton. The animating feature of Obama’s leadership style is simply making pronouncements. Making them about things he knows, things he knows not, and waiting for everyone and everything to fall in line. And, when things don’t magically come together, he pronounces his disappointment and anger. Wash, rinse, repeat.

This is the level of civic knowledge in an MSNBC anchor. Touré seems to think the reason senators like Mary Landrieu can come out with bills limiting the reach of Obamacare is that they have to govern in a "gerrymandered" world. Oy vey! He should have taken my AP Government class in which I train the students to repeated "only in the House of Representatives" anytime they refer to gerrymandering.

Michael Barone examines the politics of Colorado, a state that is a microcosm of the United States and what has happened when the Democrats gained control of the state.

Politico looks at what has happened to Mitch McConnell and what that says about the weakness of political parties at the institutional level.

Some people are having a lot of fun creating internet visuals to illustrate Obama's problems.

Apparently, Obama doesn't have much use for his cabinet. And that is clearly a main goal of yesterday's press conference and announcement.
“There’s going to be some state-by-state evaluation on how this is handled,” Obama said. “But the key point is it allows us to be able to say to folks who receive these notices that I, as the president of the United States and the insurance model of the Affordable Care Act, are not getting in the way of you shopping in the individual market that you used to have.”

In other words: Don’t blame me.
But it is totally Obamacare's fault that insurance companies cancelled those plans in the first place. They were just complying with the administration's demands.
But his gambit isn't going to work. The reality is that one of the core aims of Obama's health care law was to expand the number of Americans with comprehensive health insurance policies.

This meant forcing insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions and dictating the minimum benefits that all policies had to offer.

It also meant mandating that all individuals purchase insurance that met these minimum requirements in an attempt to lure more young and healthy Americans into the insurance market to offset the costs of covering older and sicker Americans.

This is why the law that Obama signed in March 2010 was fundamentally incompatible with his promise that Americans who liked their health care could keep it.

Though there was a clause in the law that allowed individuals to keep plans that they had the day the law was signed, it didn’t apply to anybody who renewed between March 2010 and 2014, when all the new requirements are supposed to go into effect.

In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services issued regulations saying that even if Americans had enrolled in plans they liked as of March 2010, those plans would lose their “grandfathered” status if minor modifications were made.

Those regulations were issued on June 17, 2010. So, for three years and five months, insurers have been making business plans, designing their insurance offerings, and setting rates based on rules that were in put in place by Obama with the cooperation of Democrats in Congress.

Put another way, insurers began canceling plans because Obamacare made those plans illegal. Now, just six weeks before the start of the new insurance year, Obama is telling insurers that the policies they were told would be illegal are no longer illegal. At least as far as the executive branch of the U.S. government is concerned.

But, after 41 months of planning for one scenario, how do insurers put toothpaste back into the tube in the next six weeks?

Asking them, at the 11th hour, to reverse-engineer business decisions that were years in the making, and then trying to say they’re to blame if they can’t make the changes, is beyond unreasonable.

This is compounded by the fact that insurers are already being asked to swallow a broken insurance exchange system that is leaving them with a smaller than expected (and likely sicker) risk pool than they bargained for.

Furthermore, in each year in every state, plans must go through a rigorous approval process in which state regulators have to sign off on plans and premiums.

Insurers have already designed new plans for 2014 and set rates based on an assumption about what rules would be in place and what the risk pool would look like.
And they're expected to do this all for a temporary fix.

Philip Klein doesn't think that Obama will be successful in shifting blame to the insurance companies for the policies that people have lost.

He's sorry, so sorry. He just can't stop apologizing. But he's still not really sorry that he pushed such a poorly designed bill. It's amazing how he can say he's sorry and "it's on me" and then also excuse himself and try to pretend that it's not his fault. Ruth Marcus, no Republican, bashes Obama for his "political malpractice.
The promise and the apology are the bookends of effective politics. President Obama has, tragically and perhaps irreparably, flubbed both.

This has got to hurt - N.C. Senator Kay Hagan's 22 promises that, if people had insurance, they would get to keep it. It's going to be tough for her to walk away or excuse that lie. And the N.C. Republican Party is ready to remind her.
Here are some awesome anti-communist propaganda posters.And the Senate Republican Communications Center is ready with quotes from 28 Democratic senators who made the exact same promises. And they all voted against killing the rule that led to the Senate cancellations, blocking Republican efforts to protect those plans. The ads next year practically write themselves. And for once, the Republicans seem ready to go with these well-deserved attacks.

Philip Klein examines what the way that the administration released the figures on enrollment in the Obamacare exchanges tells us.