Morning Action: What’s The Administration’s Latest Obamacare Delay to Protect Democrats in 2014?

2014 ELECTION.  The Obama administration is doing what it can to protect vulnerable Democrats in the 2014 election who would likely suffer the consequences of their constituents seeing higher premiums under Obamacare:

The Obama administration plans to push back by a month the second-year start of enrollment in its health program to give insurers more time to adjust to growing pains in the U.S. law, a move that may stave off higher premiums before the 2014 congressional elections. (emphasis added)

The enrollment period, previously scheduled to begin Oct. 15, 2014, will now start Nov. 15, said an official with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services who asked not to be identified because the decision isn’t public. The change is important to insurers that need more time to evaluate the first year of the government-run marketplaces.

The Department of Health and Human Services was perfectly content to plow ahead with the 2014 enrollment, despite the fact that they knew full well that the website would crash and burn, but a whopping 12 months in advance of the 2015 enrollment period, they decide to delay enrollment by one very convenient month until after elections for insurance companies.

DEMOCRATS.  According to a new poll, 49 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Obamacare while only 33 percent say they view it favorably; support for Obamacare is slipping among Democrats as well:

Democratic support had increased in the buildup to the health exchange launch on Oct. 1. In the last month, however, it dropped from 70 percent to 55 percent in Kaiser’s poll. Women, who had been about evenly split on the law, turned negative, with nearly half holding an unfavorable view in November. Only about a third of women now say they support the law.

STICKER SHOCK.  This was to be predicted, but many middle class Americans are experiencing sticker shock as they discover their new health care costs under Obamacare:

The premiums for bronze-level plans are generally the least expensive, but “the deductibles are simply not affordable,” says Laura Stack, a former financial analyst looking for full-time work and using her 401k to pay for health insurance. “Many will not be able to afford the per person deductibles before insurance begins to pay. What are you really paying for?”

About 4.4 million people in the individual insurance market are not eligible for the subsidies and tax credits that can help cover premiums and out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles.

Insurance brokers and “navigators” helping people apply for insurance say there are shockingly high prices for some consumers who aren’t eligible for subsidies. Without much competition in some states and because they know so little about their new customers, insurers may have priced higher than they would have otherwise.

OBAMA.  President Obama’s approval rating hit another all time low in CNN’s most recent poll:

According to a CNN/ORC poll released Thursday, 41% of Americans approve of the job the President’s doing in the White House, the lowest level for that crucial indicator in CNN polling. Fifty-six percent questioned say they disapprove of Obama’s performance, an all-time high in CNN surveys.

The President’s approval rating has now reached new lows or tied his all-time lows in polls released over the past three weeks from CNN/ORC, CBS News, ABC News/Washington Post, Quinnipiac University, National Journal Heartland Monitor, and NBC News/Wall Street Journal. And the CNN survey is the fourth non-partisan live operator national poll released this week to put Obama’s approval rating between 40% and 42%. A CBS News survey released Wednesday showed the President’s approval rating at 37%.

FILIBUSTER.  The Heritage Foundation demonstrates President Obama’s change of heart on changing the Senate rules and filibuster based on which political party controls the Senate:

Yesterday, the President’s strong words in support of the filibuster were but a memory, as he declared his about-face in favor of the Democratic majority seizing power. “I support the step a majority of Senators today took to change the way that Washington is doing business,” he said, describing Reid’s power grab in lofty, for-the-people terms.

Obama’s 180-degree turn on this issue—based on who’s in the Senate majority—is perhaps most amusing when you see that he invoked the American Founders in defense ofboth positions.

In 2005, getting rid of the filibuster “certainly is not what the patriots who founded this democracy had in mind.”

But today, using the filibuster is “not what our Founders envisioned.”

“DOC FIX.”  The Senate may act on “doc fix” legislation in December:

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus says his panel will consider so-called “doc fix” legislation  to repeal the rate formula used for physician reimbursement under Medicare when lawmakers return to Washington in December.

Unless Congress acts by Jan. 1 in some manner, Medicare physician payments will be cut by about 24.4 percent.

At the root of the problem is that the SGR formula enacted in 1997 as a way of controlling Medicare spending established a fee schedule with calculated annual updates for more than 7,000 physician services under Medicare. But as the economy began to slow and health care costs began to outpace gross domestic product growth, the formula produced decreases in physician fees each year, starting in 2002.

Over the past 10 years, Congress has spent nearly $150 billion on short-term SGR patches or “overrides” to prevent such cuts, either by increasing physician payment rates or freezing rates to prevent decreases. But each year that has produced uncertainty for physicians about whether or when their Medicare reimbursements will be cut.

The Heritage Foundation explains that Congress must reform Medicare as a whole while considering changes to the SGR formula:

However, when constructing alternatives to the SGR, Congress should heed the lessons of experience. The system of administrative pricing for Medicare physician payment, in effect for nearly 25 years, has proven cumbersome, bureaucratic, and unworkable. Moving further in the direction of pay-for-performance medicine, as some proposals have suggested, would merely substitute medical societies for the role currently played by omnipotent government bureaucrats, attempting to impose one-size-fits-all medical care from Washington.

Conversely, while the SGR has not succeeded in its initial goal of containing Medicare physician spending, the perennial “doc fix” bills have forced Congress to enact changes in the Medicare program, many of which constituted real progress in reforming entitlement spending. Completely repealing or replacing the SGR, without first ensuring fundamental reform of the entire Medicare program, would actively subvert attempts to make the program sustainable for future generations.



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