December 21, 2013

It's just four days before Christmas and I should be talking about the holiday and the meaning of the season. But our event-packing occupant in the White House just keeps things moving, albeit in the wrong direction.

Once again, by pure Executive fiat, Barack Obama has illegally changed (or I should say, made another exemption in) the Obamacare law. Just as Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) said last year that Obamacare is "a train wreck" waiting to happen, we learned Thursday that wreck is just around the bend.

It was already the biggest disaster in history, but even by the standards of Obamacare failure we’ve grown accustomed to, this is jaw-dropping.  Critics thought something like this was probably coming, but it’s still amazing to see it get here… delivered, of course, by the usual royal fiat of dubious legality.  Barack Obama was kicking World War II veterans out of their own memorial during Shutdown Theater to thwart the kind of delay he just imposed.

Remember those old Obama lies about how virtually no one was actually losing their health insurance, and all the Democrats who sneered at those unfortunate souls as “red herrings” and “anecdotes?”  Remember how the Republicans who accurately warned about this problem were dismissed as “Chicken Littles?”

Remember how, when he could no longer pretend it wasn’t happening, Obama tried to pin the blame for all those insurance cancellations on the captive corporations pinned under his boot?  When that didn’t work, he tried to tell people who lost their insurance they should be glad he killed their plans – he did them a favor, because they were too stupid to realize their lousy old junk plans were “bad apple” products foisted upon them by shady insurance companies.

Attention all Obama drones, “journalists,” and liberal pundits: all Administration talking points from the past three months just became invalid.  Fresh talking points will soon arrive from Obama’s vacation palace in Hawaii, where he’s jetting off for a fabulous 17-day holiday vacation after throwing the health insurance industry into utter chaos.

Rejoice, humble peasants, because if Obama’s Big Lie about “keeping your plan if you like your plan” resulted in your plan getting canceled, His Benevolent Majesty, King Clusterfark I, has decreed that you won’t be fined for not having the insurance that you can’t afford because of his idiotic “law,” and couldn’t buy if you wanted to, because of his crappy website.  And the announcement was delivered in the most cowardly manner imaginable, on the eve of the Christmas holiday. From National Journal:

The Obama administration will not require the millions of Americans who received health-insurance plan cancellation notices to purchase a new policy next year.

They’re granting those consumers an exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, a Department of Heath and Human Services spokeswoman confirmed. The mandate requires everyone to have health insurance or face a tax penalty, the greater of $95 or 1 percent of income in 2014.

The administration will also allow those consumers to sign up for catastrophic coverage. Those bare-bones plans are available to people who are under 30 or qualify for a “hardship exemption.”

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a letter to Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., that the administration is granting a “hardship exemption” to Americans whose plans were canceled and “might be having difficulty” paying for standard coverage.

To claim your hardship exemption, just write “OBAMA IS PRESIDENT” as the hardship on your paperwork.  The old plan you liked was affordable and gave you all the coverage you needed, but now that Obama has destroyed it, he will graciously allow you to buy a bare-bones catastrophic plan instead.  Why are you not on your knees with gratitude, lowly peasant?

Actually, these newly re-defined catastrophic plans are a bit more complicated than that.  Avik Roy of Forbes - who predicts the “stunning reversal” of the individual mandate will unleash “utter chaos” in the industry – explains:

The catastrophic plans under ObamaCare aren’t like the ones you might be familiar with.  ACA-compliant “catastrophic plans” have to cover all of the services defined as “preventive” by the government, along with all of the ObamaCare-defined “essential health benefits,” like drug-addiction therapy.

The major difference between the regular ObamaCare “bronze” plan and the ObamaCare “catastrophic” plan is that the catastrophic plan covers three primary care visits prior to hitting the deductible.  Which isn’t that much of a difference at all.

The catastrophic plans are supposed to be available only to those under 30, and those older than 30 who can’t find coverage for less than 8 percent of their income.  And the catastrophic plans are not eligible for ObamaCare’s premium support subsidies.

Which, as Roy notes, means that in some areas, the catastrophic plan will effectively cost more out-of-pocket than bronze-level coverage does.  People confronted with this absurdity are likely to follow the path so many have already settled on, and make do without insurance altogether.  But at least the King has decided to allow them a year’s grace before he begins fining them for surviving without the coverage he wiped out.  You’re welcome, America!

The reason this news came in a letter to Senator Warner is that he’s part of a group of Democrats who wrote to Secretary Sebelius a few months ago, asking for “clarification” on whether that “hardship exemption” could be stretched to include the hardship of Obamacare being a disaster.

Amusingly, flop-sweating anonymous Administration officials claim that only about 500,000 people will be affected by this exemption.  That would mean over 90 percent of the nearly 6 million people who lost coverage when the Big Lie exploded have either made new arrangements with their providers, or miraculously got past the bugs to buy their shiny new hyper-expensive high-deductible Affordable Care Act plans.  That seems… optimistic.  But then, Standard Operating Procedure for the Administration throughout this debacle has involved conjuring whatever absurd factoids are necessary to survive the current news cycle, and hope everyone forgets it when the truth becomes impossible to spin.  Judging by overnight reports of reaction from industry leaders, nobody really believes there will be only half a million people coming for those “catastrophic” plans, to say nothing of the folks who will just make do without insurance altogether.

You’re still out of luck if you didn’t have insurance before Obamacare went into effect – i.e. you’re one of the people this pile of pseudo-fascist garbage was inflicted on the rest of us to help.  You’ll still be paying a special tax if you haven’t overcome the odds to buy an insurance policy you probably can’t afford – assuming, of course, that His Benevolent Majesty doesn’t change the Settled Law of the Land with another wave of his hand next year.

How are the insurance companies taking this last-minute development, as they scramble to process a mountain of dead-tree applications and sort out the garbage data they’ve received from the Obamacare exchanges, with just a few business days left on the calendar?

The deal for consumers is yet another burden for insurers, who earlier this week went along with the White House’s request to grant leniency to consumers paying premiums in January. Consumers will now be allowed to send payments until Jan. 10 and receive coverage retroactively to Jan. 1.

This change could have a more long-term impact. Catastrophic-coverage plans were priced with a 30-and-under consumer base in mind. And with thousands who were barred from the market due to preexisting conditions expected to purchase the new coverage, allowing people who already had coverage to go without it could upset the balance of the risk pool. The Affordable Care Act exchanges need enough healthy people to balance out the costs of care for the sick or premiums could rise in 2015, creating a “death spiral” and jeopardizing the law’s success altogether.

Consumers have until 11:59 p.m. EST on Dec. 23 to sign up for coverage that begins Jan. 1.

Oh, well, no pressure then.  Plenty of hours remain until the deadline guillotine drops!

Karen Ignagni, president of the insurance industry trade associated AHIP, warned “this latest rule change could cause significant instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers.”  Avik Roy at Forbes says industry executives are describing the current state of the Administration as “panic mode.”

Tax serfs, prepare to dig deep and cough up billions to bail out the insurance companies caught in this death spiral.  They supported Obamacare to gain access to your wallets, and by God, they’re going to get the guaranteed profits Barack Obama promised them, one way or the other.  Attention drones, journalists, liberal bloggers: prepare to shred all Obama talking points related to fiscal discipline and deficit reduction.

This would all have been much easier to deal with if it had been done months ago, but Obama’s arrogance and political needs wouldn’t allow that.  Instead, like everything else to do with Obamacare, lies were told, documents were hidden, and everything was pushed back until the last possible moment.  Fox News has some Republican responses in an article that describes this as “an 11th-hour change,” but it’s really more like 11:58, and the doomsday chimes are starting to crank up deep inside the Armageddon clock, while the cuckoo of despair limbers up its throat. The train wreck is a comin'. All aboard!?

We believe that the Constitution of the United States speaks for itself. There is no need to rewrite, change or reinterpret it to suit the fancies of special interest groups or protected classes.