Obamacare exchanges opened exactly one month ago today. I think it's safe to say that this has been a disastrous month for America. Millions of Americans are facing the reality of sky-rocketing health insurance costs, losing access to their current plans and their doctors and seeing their jobs affected as employers try to cope with Obamacare regulations. The fact that we are one month removed from the launch of Healthcare.gov and the site is still not fully functioning is a down-right embarrassment. It is inexcusable and the American people deserve better.
Politically, this has been a nightmare for Barack Obama and the Democrats. Before October 1st, Democrats were able to drive the narrative that Republicans opposed to Obamacare were “extremists” who were simply trying to scare Americans and deny them coverage. But now Americans are seeing Republican warnings become a reality and Democrat promises have been outed as direct lies to the American people.
The administration knew people would lose coverage and this includes people who currently are covered by their employers. Estimates from 2010 show that the government believed 51% of employer-sponsored plans would get canceled, and that is a mid-range estimate. This is in addition to the 67% of those covered in the individual marketplace who were projected to lose coverage. Forbes adds up the numbers, “As to the number of people facing cancellations, 51 percent of the employer-based market plus 53.5 percent of the non-group market (the middle of the administration’s range) amounts to 93 million Americans.” The administration knew three years ago that 93 million Americans would likely lose their current healthcare coverage! That's down-right outrageous. Yet they continued to use the line that we could keep our current plans and our doctors. Were they hoping it wasn't true or that people simply wouldn't care because liberal propaganda would have convinced them by now how great Obamacare would be?
It's no wonder that the administration refuses to release numbers on how many people are signing up for the exchanges. Yesterday an internal White House memo revealed that only six people – yes, six! – signed up for Obamacare on the first day. By the end of the second day, only 248 people had enrolled. These numbers are miniscule compared to our population of over 300 million. It's also a big problem for Obamacare officials, who know what it will take for Obamacare to function properly (if that's even possible). The administration's goal is to have 7 million Americans in the exchanges by March 1st, 2014. That means that it would take 39,000 people per day signing up for Obamacare in order to meet that goal. Considering most Americans can't even get onto the site, this is a big, big problem.
What happens if millions of Americans don't enter into the exchanges? It's what some economists call a “death spiral.” I pointed out this report earlier in the week from the New York Times: “Younger people, who tend to have very low anticipated medical costs, are supposed to help pay for the medical costs of older or sicker enrollees. Without them, so-called risk pools in Ohio and other states might become too risky, forcing insurers to raise premiums. Those higher premiums could dissuade more of the young and healthy from signing up, forcing insurers to raise prices again. Economists call the process 'adverse selection' and warn that in its worst iteration it could lead to a 'death spiral' of falling enrollment and climbing prices.” In other words, if young people don't sign up at the rate the administration needs, overall health insurance prices will soar.
While people are not clamoring to enter into the Obamacare exchanges to purchase private insurance, hoards of people are piling onto the government dole. The vast majority of Americans who are “getting covered” are those who are benefiting from the expansion of Medicaid in many states. This quote from the Washington Post speaks for itself: “When we first saw the numbers, everyone’s eyes kind of bugged out,” said Matt Salo, who runs the National Association of Medicaid Directors. “Of the people walking through the door, 90 percent are on Medicaid. We’re thinking, what planet is this happening on?”
If this trend continues, it's going to be a big problem. It means that Obamacare is turning out to be exactly what Republicans warned it would become: a another big-government entitlement program. After all, Obama's 2014 budget justification for operation and management of the healthcare exchanges is so that CMS can “ensure the integrity of programs that redistribute tens of billions of dollars.” There you go – redistribution of the wealth.
But some liberals believe that the reason Obamacare isn't working properly is because of … Republicans! A piece in the Politico today point to “the Obamacare sabotage campaign”: If it wasn't for those darn Republicans, people would be educated about the law, Healthcare.gov would have the proper funding and actually work (as if $634 million wasn't enough!) and Congress would have passed legislation to fix the absurdities of the original law. But just remember that Obamacare was so wonderful that we had to pass the law to find out what's in it. Either Democrats themselves didn't know what was in it or they did but didn't want to tell us because they knew we wouldn't like it. Take your pick. If Obamacare cannot function on its own, then that is the fault of the Democrats who pushed it on the American people.
The fact is that Obamacare will not work in its current form. Republicans in Congress would be best served to hold the line. Rather than nibble around the edges and make small changes to try and improve this train wreck, continue to push for delay or repeal. The American people deserve a better choice and the only way they will get that is if there is a conservative alternative.