Morning Action: Democrats in Denial as Obamacare Failures Remain Center Stage

PELOSI. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) 14% refuses to acknowledge that President Obama’s promise that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your healthcare plan” was indeed a false promise:

“Are you accountable for saying something that turned out not to be correct,” Gregory asked.

“It’s not that it’s not correct, it’s that if you want to keep,” Pelosi responded, ” It’s important that the insurance companies to say to people this is what your plan does. It doesn’t prevent you from being discriminated against on the basis of pre-existing conditions. It doesn’t prevent lifetime limits, annual limits”

Gregory continued to pressure her about the minimum standards that Obamacare requires.

“If you had your plan before the enactment of the law in 2010, there is nothing in the law says you have to [change it],” Pelosi answered.

UNIONS. The Obama Administration may give (sub. req’d) Big Labor and unions another break from Obamacare taxes:

Earlier this month the Administration suggested that it may grant a waiver for some insurance plans from a tax that is supposed to capitalize a reinsurance fund forObamaCare. The $25 billion cost of the fund, which is designed to pay out to the insurers on the exchanges if their costs are higher than expected, is socialized over every U.S. citizen with a private health plan. For 2014, the fee per head is $63.

The unions hate this reinsurance transfer because it takes from their members in the form of higher premiums and gives to people on the exchanges. But then most consumers are hurt in the same way, and the unions have little ground for complaint given that ObamaCare would not have passed in 2010 without the fervent support of the AFL-CIO, the Teamsters and the rest.

The unions ought to consider this tax a civic obligation in solidarity with the (uninsured) working folk they claim to support. Instead, they’ve spent most of the last year demanding that the White House give them subsidies and carve-outs unavailable to anyone else.

CONSUMERS.  President Obama announced a “fix” to Obamacare, which was not only illegal but which also left consumers with a great deal of uncertainty about what to do next.  USA Today reports on the story of Cathy Pedersen, who is one of these confused consumers, left in “insurance limbo”:

When President Obama announced a rule change last week to his Affordable Care Act that potentially would allow hundreds of thousands of Americans to keep their old insurance plans, Pedersen saw a glimmer of hope that the inexpensive, high-deductible plan she’s been purchasing for nearly 20 years wouldn’t be canceled after all.

Soon after Obama announced the rule change, Pederson of Gilbert, Ariz., made a quick call to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona to see if she could get back her old plan, which did not meet ACA minimum requirements.

She was told by a customer service representative that the insurer was still consulting with Arizona’s insurance commission on whether it will make her 2013 plan available again after it expires Dec. 31.

CIRCULAR FIRING SQUAD.  It appears Democrats face a great challenge in avoiding what amounts to a circular firing squad over the Obamacare debacle:

[F]or Democrats in swing districts — and, by extension, swing states — Obamacare is a losing issue from which, for political reasons, they need to distance themselves. That mindset leads to a slippery political slope for congressional Democrats and the White House. If the politically “safe” vote for vulnerable Democrats becomes voting against the president on his health-care law, it raises the real possibility that Congress could wage serious efforts to unravel parts of the law.  And if the law starts to collapse under its own weight, it’s difficult to see that being a good thing — or even a neutral thing — for Democrats at the ballot box in 2014.

The choices before Democrats are difficult: Stick with President Obama on a law that has shown major technical and political problems in hopes things get better or begin to splinter off in an every-man-for-himself approach that has significant political peril attached to it as well.

MEDICAID.  Under Obamacare, thousands of Americans are now getting Medicaid:

The Obama administration’s first enrollment report released Wednesday shows the phenomenon is real. It is happening even in Republican-led states that have fought the health law and refused to take advantage of a provision that would expand their Medicaid programs.

In the first month of open enrollment, about 91,000 people in those non-expanding states who would have qualified for Medicaid before but had not signed up, came to the federal online marketplace and were deemed eligible  for the program,  according to a Kaiser Health News analysis of the data.

In Florida, nearly 13,000 people have visited and been determined eligible for Medicaid – more than in any of the states not expanding the program. In Texas, the figure is about 11,600. Texas and Florida have been among the most hostile states to the health law. Nearly 11,000 people in Wisconsin have also been deemed eligible for Medicaid. Wisconsin is planning to reduce Medicaid eligibility next year.

This is problematic, because research demonstrates that Medicaid enrollees have worse access and outcomes that privately insured individuals.

INCOMPETENCE.  Ron Fournier points out the absurdity of the Administration’s measure of success for the Obamacare website, which is that they will consider it a success if 80 percent of users can sign up for a plan:

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that the Obama administration will consider the new online marketplace a success if 80 percent of users can buy health insurance. That is absurd. First, it’s another broken promise. The president and his advisers responded to the disastrous rollout last month by vowing to deliver an website by the end of November. (If history remembers President Obama for one thing, other than his barrier-breaking 2008 election, it might be the outsized and unmet expectations that paved the path of his presidency.) Second, in what other line of work is 20 percent failure considered a success? If one out of every five meals served by a restaurant is inedible, the joint goes out of business.

EARMARK BAN.  The earmark ban reduced the sway of K Street lobbyists on Capitol Hill:

If the lobbying world of K Street was as powerful as its public image, earmarks would be back in full force in Congress — or, maybe, they never would have gone away.

The modern lobbying business was built largely on helping clients secure member- directed pots of money in annual appropriations bills. And many of the firms that pioneered the practice have taken a serious hit since lawmakers banned earmarks in 2010.

But don’t expect K Street to mount a high-profile, big-dollar campaign to bring them back. Instead, in private meetings with members of Congress and their aides, lobbyists say they offer a pitch for how earmarks could help lawmakers, who are often frustrated that they can’t direct money to their districts, wrest more control of federal dollars.

And those making the case for earmarks aren’t just the ones whose paychecks depended on appropriations work.

“It’s never affected our bottom line,” said GOP lobbyist Alex Vogel, a partner with Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti. “It has very much affected the ability of the legislative branch and of government to function in a broader sense, so it’s affected everybody.”


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