They knew for months and did what they do best: They covered it up.
As far back as March, a top IT official at the Department of Health and Human Services said the department’s current ambition for the law’s new online insurance marketplaces was that they not be “a Third-World experience.” Several provisions had already been abandoned in an effort to simplify the administration’s task and maximize the chances that the new systems would be ready to go live in October, when customers are supposed to start signing up for insurance.
In April, several consultants focusing on the new online marketplaces, known as exchanges, told National Journal that the idealized, seamless user experience initially envisioned under the Affordable Care Act was no longer possible, as the administration axed non-essential provisions that were too complex to implement in time. (Read the story for some examples and commentary.) That focus has intensified lately, as officials announced that they would not be requiring employers to cover their workers next year or states to verify residents’ incomes before signing them up for insurance.
Remember last week when Obama’s slobbering media sycophants told us what a brilliant political move this was? Yeah, about that:
And whatever the bad politics of the recent announcements, a failure of crucial systems next year would be much worse for the president and Democrats running in 2014. “I continue to see the federal government focusing on mission critical issues, and moving forward on them, and jettisoning to the extent they have to the things that aren’t mission critical,” says Joel Ario, a Managing Director at Mannatt Health Solutions, a consultancy, and the administration’s former top exchange official. “I have not heard anything that suggests to me that we will not move forward with the main exchange functions in time.”
It’s gotten so bad that the floundering Obama may soon determine that his popularity will increase if he scuttles this monstrosity altogether. He’s always looking out for himself, so don’t be surprised if he proposes postponing this mess until he’s out of office. By the way, what would the media coverage had been like if President Romney postponed things?
“President Romney is openly defying the laws of the United States that he swore an oath to faithfully execute,” said the leader of an umbrella liberal interest group that was formed to promote the Affordable Care Act. “Arbitrarily letting employers off the hook for providing health care is not just illegal, but it’s deadly for Americans who are counting that coverage.”
That umbrella advocacy group, several major national labor unions, and 14 smaller advocacy groups filed a lawsuit last week in the D.C. Circuit seeking an emergency injunction forcing the Romney administration to enforce the law. The groups are also staging a 24-7 protest in Lafayette Square across from the White House under a large banner reading: “Romney Is Not Above the Law.” A significant number of protesters are calling for the president’s impeachment over the issue.
Refusing to back down, the Romney administration made a move to suspend enforcement of other major requirements of the law late last week, this time the verification requirements intended to ensure that only qualified individuals receive affordability tax credits for the purchase of insurance plans on the new Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges. Eligibility will instead be on “the honor system.”
Supporters of the Affordable Care Act objected that the move would benefit large insurance companies at the expense of vulnerable individuals the law was intended to help. “These tax credits are paid directly to the giant insurance companies, but if they are later determined to be erroneous then individuals are on the hook to pay back thousands of dollars to the IRS,” said a liberal interest group leader. “Without verification procedures, the biggest corporations are reaping billions in subsidies but the regular Americans this law was supposed to help can be pushed into bankruptcy.”
Democrats in Congress accuse President Romney of breaking the law. “The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, whether Mr. Romney likes it or not,” said the House Democratic leader. “We are confident that the courts will find the president’s lawless decision to let the largest employers off the hook for paying even a portion of the health care costs for their workers to be illegal.”
There would be nonstop media hysteria. But when their man Barack does it, it’s deviously brilliant.
Harm to health care, interrupted health insurance, bigger federal deficits, and brazen disregard for the law of the land sounds like a bad idea. Why do it?
Politics. Democrats no longer face the immediate specter of running against the fallout from a heavy regulatory imposition on employers across the land. Explaining away the mandate was going to be a big political lift; having the White House airbrush it from the landscape is way better.
It helps with ObamaCare in other ways as well. The administration was flailing to find high-profile allies (e.g., the National Football League) to advertise the wonders of ObamaCare. In a single masterstroke it has given every company a reason to explain its existence (“don’t worry, you’ll be fine in the exchanges”) and created a de facto advertising campaign of enormous scale and reach. Deviously brilliant.
Pathetically, now the White House is weakly claiming the postponement is the right thing to do. Killing it altogether would be even more right.