Skip to comments.Obamacare 2.0: Shaky like 1.0
Posted on 04/26/2013 10:04:54 PM PDT by Second Amendment First
Obamacare 2.0: Shaky like 1.0 By: David Nather April 26, 2013 05:23 PM EDT
Obamacare fires are flaring up all over in Hill hearings, in scary headlines about big rate hikes and in closed-door meetings of nervous Democrats.
The White House response: Well get to that.
President Barack Obamas messaging gurus and their allies say they will step on the gas before enrollment begins this fall, but the effort, they concede, is not in full swing.
Obamas allies know the health care law needs a massive outreach effort, but Obamacare Round 2 is already starting to look a lot like Round 1, when Democrats roundly accused the White House of botching its appeal to the public, giving Republicans the upper hand on defining the law.
Its a clear contrast with the immigration reform effort, where the rollout has been filled with business and advocacy groups praising the Gang of Eight bill and quickly knocking down any attacks. This week, there has been plenty of fodder for GOP critics of the health care law but mostly silence from the administration.
Part of that is because the White House team is in flux. Tara McGuinness, who just joined the White House to run the messaging of the law, told POLITICO that her shop is ramping up on the health care communications and outreach.
She pointed out that Democratic senators met with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough on Thursday, the first in a series of Hill meetings.
Meanwhile, the groups that will be responsible for on-the-ground work say theyre waiting.
Obama is leaning heavily on outside allies, and on Friday he asked Planned Parenthood to help sell the law with a pitch heavy on benefits to women, like contraceptive coverage and preventive care the same targeted themes he stressed during his reelection campaign.
(Also on POLITICO: Obama urges Planned Parenthood to help inform on Obamacare)
But Enroll America, the coalition of health care advocates, industry groups, and labor and civil rights organizations thats planning a massive outreach effort, says its still planning to kick into full gear its Get Covered America campaign this summer its not speeding up the timetable. Headed by Anne Filipic, the former deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, the coalition is planning a campaign of online organizing, grass-roots outreach and paid advertising.
Organizing for Action has been planning its own outreach campaign for the summer, too, which is shaping up as a big test of the strength of its armies of volunteers. OFA officials didnt respond to questions about whether theyll speed up their plans.
Why wait? The answer, the laws supporters say, is that if they do the outreach too early and people are told they can sign up for Obamacare coverage with generous subsidies but theres nowhere to go right now theyll just tune out.
But Democrats are worried now about the messaging and the mechanics of the rollout.
Im concerned because we did take substantial criticism for putting this plan in place that it achieve its true purpose, said Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas. Theres so much work to do in such a short period of time.
(Also on POLITICO: Obamacare exemption talk lights up Capitol Hill)
Other Democrats say the public is still confused about the law and they want to see more outreach and public education. Sen. Max Baucus, an author of the law, raised that concern in a recent hearing, arguing that if the administration doesnt act, theyll face a huge train wreck coming down a comment that got serious attention from Republicans this week.
I think there is a lot of confusion, Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado, a chief deputy whip for House Democrats and a vocal supporter of the law, told POLITICO. Shes not worried about Republican hand-wringing about all of the laws potential problems, she said, but what is of concern is that the October deadline is rapidly approaching, and we need to make sure there is outreach happening.
DeGette agreed that it may be too early to crank up the outreach machinery to full volume. Even though shes planning town halls this summer to talk up the law and its benefits and said all members of Congress should do the same, I think it would just cause more confusion if we did it right now because theres no exchange for them to go to.
But DeGette still says theres an urgent need for more public education at the right time.
She recalled a recent conversation where a woman came up to me in Denver and said, Im a single mom, I make $40,000 a year. I dont know how Im going to get health insurance. When DeGette told her the Colorado health exchange would open on Oct. 1 and she might be eligible for coverage and subsidies, the woman reacted as if shed never heard of Obamacare before: She said, I am? How do I get that information?
Other advocacy groups, like the National Council of La Raza and Young Invincibles, say they already have their own outreach efforts under way. We certainly think its never too soon to start promoting the fact that big changes are coming, said La Razas Jennifer Ngandu.
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, an advocacy group thats leading the outreach effort, says the top priority should be for HHS to just keep working on the exchanges and the other infrastructure that will be needed for the October launch.
I have every reason to be confident that the train is on track and will arrive at the station on time, Pollack said. Will there be any glitches? Of course, and as problems emerge, as they do with every new program, they will be fixed.
But as Democrats are realizing, those glitches gives the Republicans plenty of room to jump on every hint of a problem with Obamacare and thats exactly what theyve been doing.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had fun with Baucuss train wreck comment by suggesting that Obama should give a speech warning about how terrible the law will be, and other Republicans have been circulating the train wreck quote all week.
And Republicans got new ammunition for their warnings that Obamacare will cause big health insurance premium hikes after CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield proposed a 25 percent rate hike for its coverage of individuals and said its because of the law. Maryland officials have insisted, however, that those rates arent final and the states insurance commissioner can reject them a point HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also made to lawmakers on Thursday.
Chet Burrell, CareFirsts president and CEO, says the nonprofit insurer will have to raise its rates that much because of the laws requirement that everyone will have to be accepted for coverage next year, even if they have pre-existing conditions. Hes not opposed to that goal he calls it a very worthy public purpose but says it will make individual coverage more expensive.
Everyone who is in Marylands high-risk pool now a program specifically designed to cover people with pre-existing conditions will switch to regular private coverage, Burrell said, and health coverage for those people is five times as expensive as it is for everyone else with individual coverage.
This isnt some evil health insurance company plot, Burrell said, but a realistic look at what happens when everyone with pre-existing conditions can get regular health coverage for the first time.
Advocates arent too worried about the danger that other insurers across the country could boost their rates in the same way. Pollack said CareFirst, which provides coverage to his group, already had a history of asking for big rate increases even before the law.
Jen Mishory of Young Invincibles, which is trying to get young adults to sign up for Obamacare, notes that those arent the actual rates most people would pay most young adults would get subsidies that would hide a lot of the cost. And if other insurers in the health exchanges offer lower rates, the consumers will be able to choose based on those prices, she said.
But Burrell predicts that other insurers will ask for the same kinds of rate increases when they sell their individual plans in the health exchange, and he says the only reason other Maryland insurers havent been called out on it is that their filings with the state have been so confusing that its hard to tell what their actual increases will be.
Members of Congress, meanwhile, had a big headache on their hands after POLITICO reported on efforts to fix a part of the law that requires lawmakers and their staffs to get their coverage through the health exchanges instead of through the same federal employees health plan that covers other government workers.
The problem is that the provision added to the law by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa isnt clear on how theyd get their employer contributions that pays for most of their premiums now through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. The measure was supposed to be a statement that Congress should be treated like everyone else, but if they dont find a fix, they could end up paying the entire premium themselves which is harsher than how others in the exchanges would be treated.
Now, Democratic leaders are fighting Republican charges fueled by the POLITICO coverage that theyre trying to get special treatment for Congress, but they insist theyre just trying to make sure that theres a way to pay for the premiums and treat all staff members equally (some fall under the provision, some dont). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is pushing for an administrative fix that wouldnt require new legislation.
There are various scenarios about how that could happen, but the focus is on preventing them from having to pay the full cost of insurance themselves unlike other people who will be in the exchanges or who get covered on the job.
But the whole episode shows how lawmakers are now facing the consequences of the way the health care bill was passed by taking the Senate bill and passing it in the House, without the chance to work out a final bill in a House-Senate conference committee that would have cleaned up the sloppy language.
Its, frankly, grossly inadequate, DeGette said. Its one of those Senate specials where they put it into the bill to get votes and then it never went to conference, so it never got fixed.
Jennifer Haberkorn contributed to this report.
This article first appeared on POLITICO Pro at 5:17 p.m. on April 26, 2013.
© 2013 POLITICO LLC
If it’s so shaky, why are the Republicans who were against it in 2010, now supporting it wholeheartedly.
Good question. The Obamacare could destroy the Democratic Party when the average person realizes how bad it is. Why are the Republicans bending over backwards to try and salvage it? If they were smart, they would just step back and watch. I guess they feel their have to reinforce their reputation as “the stupid party.”
Its, frankly, grossly inadequate,
That says it all.
Of course this isn't about redistribution of wealth, it's about the children!
Who are these people kidding? They are full of lies about Obamacare. First being, there is no healthcare in Obamacare; but there are a lot of other things such as the destruction of America and it’s people.
You just know this gargantuan program will be running like a well-oiled machine with university professors in charge of the nation’s health care.
(Honestly, what were they thinking???)
Totalitariancare 2.0 - Plunder & Death
I don’t give a crap if it is “nobamacare 32799.0” ...it still is tyrannical and an theft of our rights. Thanks all you DIMocRAT nitwits and your fellow traveler RINO enablers.