As of today, ObamaCare is the law of the land. Or more accurately, those parts of ObamaCare that weren’t unilaterally changed or delayed to serve the interests of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party heading in the 2014 election. Despite those efforts, it would appear that 2014 will bring no respite from the criticism associated with what might be best described as the biggest government boondoggle of all time. As the nation straddles the passage from the old year into the new, the hits just keep on coming.
The first hit concerns the exchanges themselves.
As Forbes Magazine contributor Michael Cannon explains, ObamaCare enrollments remain a whopping 60 percent below the targets set by the Obama administration. Only 2.2 million Americans out of the 3.3 million envisioned by the administration have signed up, not paid up. That means the 2.2 million figure will eventually be lower, since no program has a 100 percent success rate in that regard. Thus the administration’s notion that they can meet their target of 7 million paying customers by March 31 (of which 2.7 million must be “young invincibles” to offset the costlier coverage for older, sicker Americans) looks like a pipe dream. Furthermore, since the 60 percent number is a national average, states with low enrollment totals will undoubtedly see a surge in premium costs by 2015.
Two other hits come courtesy of Democrats.
On Monday, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) managed a “two-fer” in that regard, unscoring the low enrollment numbers, and insulting her constituency in the process. “There are millions of people out there who think [ObamaCare] was repealed, so there was no way to break through that very easily,” she told MSNBC, adding that the “debacle of a website…seemed to confirm that it must have been repealed, or should have been repealed.” Norton was positive that once the fines for not obtaining insurance kick in, “you’re going to see people trotting to sign on like you’ve never seen it before,” she predicted.
Perhaps. Or perhaps those same currently under-informed Americans will learn that the president unilaterally (and illegally) suspended those fines. Those who were unable to access a policy on the “debacle of a website,” or found policies that were unaffordable, were granted a “hardship exemption” for some part of 2014. In keeping with the orchestrated chaos, the Obama administration did not say how long this particular improvisation will remain in effect, or how they will distinguish between those Americans who are legitimately burdened or simply gaming the system. No doubt the intrepid Ms. Norton will double-down on her efforts to keep the voters in her district informed as the year wears on.
Former Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Howard Dean one-upped Norton, insisting the entire law wasn’t necessary, “and it’s probably a big political thing, and that is going to hurt the Democrats because people don’t like to be told what to do by the government no matter what party they’re in,” he contended. Americans were relatively blasé about that prospect until they began to experience what it truly meant. A combination of cancelled policies, sticker shock and the realization that the selling of ObamaCare was based on a series of coordinated lies and broken promises has already taken it toll. And while the president and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have made every effort to postpone the next eruption of chaos until after the 2014 election, they are unlikely to succeed.
In a piece entitled “Here Comes the ObamaCare Tax Avalanche,” columnist John Hayward details the series of levies that are now in effect. These include a 2 percent tax on every healthcare plan, and $2.00 fee per policy to support the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, a new medical-research trust fund. Individual Americans who earn $200,000 and families with an income of $250,000 or above will be subjected to a 0.9 percent Medicare surtax in addition to the existing 1.45 percent Medicare payroll tax, along with a 3.8 percent tax on all unearned income, such as capital gains or other investment income. ”Hidden” taxes include raising the threshold of income tax deductions for those with high out-of-pocket medical expenses from 7.5 percent to 10 percent.
One insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, is refusing to play along. They’re adding a separate line item on their bills entitled, “Affordable Care Act Fees and Taxes.” In an example provided by the company, the hit on one insurance bill came to $23.14 a month, or $277.68 annually. It boosted the cost of that policy from $322.26 to $345.40 per month. If other companies follow suit, it will undoubtedly blow a giant hole in the administration’s efforts to re-focus the blame for escalating insurance costs from the Obama administration and Democrats onto the insurance companies.
Those escalating costs will further anger Americans as they begin to realize insurance companies will be mitigating them by limiting which doctors and other providers will be included in the new plans. Nothing illustrated the magnitude of this reality better than a Wall Street Journal column by a cancer patent who has “fought and survived stage-4 gallbladder cancer,” only to discover “her affordable, lifesaving medical insurance policy has been canceled effective Dec. 31.”
Her narrative runs completely counter to the one promulgated by Democrats and their media enablers. “Since March 2007 United Healthcare has paid $1.2 million to help keep me alive, and it has never once questioned any treatment or procedure recommended by my medical team,” wrote Edie Sundby in November. “The company pays a fair price to the doctors and hospitals, on time, and is responsive to the emergency treatment requirements of late-stage cancer. Its caring people in the claims office have been readily available to talk to me and my providers.”
The Obama administration’s response? Obama advisor Dan Pfeiffer tweeted that the “real reason” Sundby was losing her insurance was due to the greed of her insurance company. Apparently leftist “sympathy” for individual victims–who are regularly trotted out to promote their agenda du jour–is reserved only for those victims who promote that leftist ideology.
There are undoubtedly many other Americans experiencing a similar dilemma, but the public would only learn about them if the media were willing to report their stories. As Americans are only recently discovering, much of that media, long aware that ObamaCare was built on a tissue of lies, were more than willing to kick journalistic integrity to the curb. “Three years ago and longer these journalists knew there were a growing number of doctors warning about government intervention, rationing, price increases, Americans being kicked off their plans, the forced replacement of primary-care doctors and mass confusion,” writes Doug MacKinnon, who further contends the media “desperately wanted to see Obama re-elected in 2012 and knew it would be much harder to obtain that outcome if his signature program were exposed as the fraud it was.”
Sarcastically, but accurately, he insists “that the most newsworthy story of 2013 was the mainstream media burying the most newsworthy story of 2013.”
Now that they have achieved their primary objective, the media have “suddenly” discovered many Americans will be forced to endure the chaotic realities of ObamaCare. NBC found a car dealership in Michigan whose 41 employees are getting their policies cancelled after 35 years. CBS reveals that today will be a “day of reckoning” as consumers “will begin finding out if they’re actually enrolled in the plans they signed up for.” They’ve even acknowledged that the employer mandate, delayed until 2015 is “looming,” while they fail to mention that between 50-100 million employees may experience the same policy cancellations that Americans who purchased individual insurance policies dealt with this year.
The Gannet News Group is ruminating about the shortage of 45,000 primary care doctors that will occur between now and 2020, and that long waits and greater traveling distances will become the new normal. CNN Money warns that Americans who begin using ObamaCare without their “spanking new ID card,” had better bring their wallet with them due to the reality that “some applicants’ enrollments may be incomplete in insurers’ systems on Jan. 1.” And Politico has now discovered that the president they have long shilled for has feet of clay. “There was apparently no single person, fully empowered by the president, lying awake at night knowing he or she would be blamed for anything that went wrong,” writes Elizabeth Titus.
That is somewhat inaccurate. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Chief Operating Officer Michelle Snyder, who has spent 41 years working for the federal government, is retiring. “She had to go. She was responsible for the implementation of Obamacare. She controlled all the resources to get it done. She was in charge of information technology. She controlled personnel and budget,” said a former unnamed agency official.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius disagreed with that assessment during a Congressional oversight hearing on Oct. 30. After naming Snyder as the person responsible for the disastrous rollout, she fell on her proverbial sword. “Michelle Snyder is not responsible for those debacles. Hold me accountable for the debacle. I’m responsible.”
Millions of Americans would love to do just that. But much like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “taking responsibility” for Benghazi, those same Americans are well aware that there are no repercussions whatsoever for such “nobility.”
Yet there are glimmers of hope on the horizon. Americans can opt out of ObamaCare and still get insurance coverage, according to Jim Lakely. They would still have to pay the fine associated with the mandate, but they can purchase “non-qualified coverage, subject to state insurance department approval,” from companies like Assurant and United Healthcare. They have apparently developed limited-benefits plans subject to approval by individual states.
Speaking of states themselves, three of them, Georgia, South Carolina, and Missouri, are in various stages of crafting bills that would nullify the implementation of the healthcare bill in those states. “If enough states do this, it will gut Obamacare because the federal government doesn’t have the resources … to go into each of the states if they start refusing,” contends Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano.
The idea is based on reasoning supported by the Supreme Court in four cases from 1842 to 2012. They noted that the federal government cannot “commandeer” states to participate in federal law or regulatory programs that require the use of state resources to do so. “Our sources tell us to expect at least ten states moving in this direction in the coming months,” said Tenth Amendment Center national communications director Mike Maharrey. “But that will only come true if people start calling their state representatives and senators right now.”
Right now, most Americans are enjoying their New Year’s holiday, relaxing and/or nursing a hangover. After that, they may very well undertake whatever work is necessary to extract themselves from the hangover known as ObamaCare. Perhaps 2014 is the year most Americans decide that, “if you like your freedom, you can keep your freedom. Period.”
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Arnold Ahlert is a former NY Post op-ed columnist currently contributing to JewishWorldReview.com, HumanEvents.com and CanadaFreePress.com. He may be reached at [email protected].