To Address Obamacare’s Political Problems, Obama Creates a Bigger Policy Mess

Whitehouse.govWhitehouse.govYesterday’s confirmation that the Obama administration will extend a previous administrative tweak allowing individuals with non-compliant health plans to keep their current coverage through 2016 reveals two things about the White House and its approach to the health law.

The first is that President Obama is willing to deviate from the statute of the legislation to the extent that he sees fit, regardless of his legal authority to do so. The second is that the politics and policy considerations surrounding the law are at odds—and that right now, short-term political considerations are winning.

The legal authority for the delay is murky at best. When President Obama announced the first fix back in November, the administration was vague about the basis of its power to alter the provision. This time around, administration officials are describing the move as a “transitional policy.” But what it boils down to is that the executive branch is simply declining to enforce part of the law, because it’s inconvenient for them to do so.

This makes 20 alterations to the health law through some sort of administrative action, according to a count by the Galen Institute, many without obvious legal authority. That the administration has gone forth with so many dubious tweaks suggests that they do not feel bound by such considerations, or, at the very least, that they are more worried about the law’s failures than about the legal niceties.

The legal haziness of the latest fix raises some thorny issues for insurers—among them, that they might be liable to be sued by someone who stayed on a non-compliant plan. If someone stays on their current plan, files a claim for coverage that is not covered by that plan but is mandated under Obamacare, then what happens? As Case Western Reserve law professor Jonathan Adler told National Journal’s Sam Baker when this question was raised last year, the law is still the law. The administration may be declining to enforce the provision. But what would the courts say?

Aside from the legal liability, insurers have other concerns. When the initial tweak was announced, Karen Ignagni, the head of the biggest insurer trade group, said that the change could “destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers.” If people are allowed to stay on their old plans, then they won’t be buying into the new coverage insurers are selling through the exchanges. And since the people most likely to stay on the old plans are healthier and cheaper, that leaves the exchanges with a sicker, more expensive population than expected—and raises the likelihood that premiums will rise as a result. Already, insurer has reported that the composition of the exchanges is more adverse than expected, and cited last November’s tweak as a reason why.

The latest tweak further undermines the policy foundation of the law. So why did he go through with it? Because the immediate political problems were even greater.

When the Obama administration announced the tweak, it took the unusual step of noting a group of legislators it had consulted with in determining the change. Oddly enough, the group consisted almost entirely of Democrats in tight races taking fire for their support of the unpopular health law. Asked whether the change was made in response to political concerns, a senior administration official told reporters that he could “understand why some folks could look at it” that way, according to The Hill, but then insisted that there were no political considerations involved. None whatsoever.

The timeline tells another story. The first change was announced in response the outcry that resulted when the public found out that President Obama had repeatedly misled about the effects of his health law. If you like your plan, you can keep your plan, he promised over and over. Despite his promise, millions of people found out that they could not. So Obama announced that in some circumstances they could, at least for another year. But that merely pushed off the wave of cancellations until an election year—a big problem, especially with so many Democrats already vulnerable because of their support for Obamacare. The newest change extends the transition period beyond the next presidential election.

In other words, Obama chose to postpone the law’s political consequences at the expense of its policy design. The result will be plans that are sicker, smaller, and likely more expensive for years. Additional risk corridor funding included in the change may mitigate some of the cost, but the fundamental problem remains: the law is politically problematic for Democrats, but solving its political difficulties requires exacerbating its policy problems. Each time Obama chooses to fix the law this way, he only makes it worse.

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  • Pro Libertate||

    "As part of my new initiative, everyone who votes Democrat this year is exempt from the federal income tax."

  • The Last American Hero||

    "Now let me be clear. This tax break is not politically motivated, despite what some of the more radical members of the Tea Party may say."

  • Pro Libertate||

    Of course. How could anyone even suggest that?

  • General Butt Naked||

    FAKE SCANDAL ALERT!

  • UnCivilServant||

    Don't they already make too little to be taxed?

  • Pro Libertate||

    You may be missing how this works.

  • DK||

    "As part of my new initiative, everyone who votes Democrat this year is exempt from the federal income tax."

    To make up for the shortfall, everyone who votes for a libertarian* candidate, goes through asset forfeiture.

    * libertarian to be defined by the IRS.

  • Pro Libertate||

    See, I think the president tosses out the income tax because they don't need it. Just use debt for all of it, with some vague statement about funding it all from stuff we get in space, someday real soon now.

  • perlhaqr||

    I just want to know, if the President is allowed to just turn off Obamacare at a whim, does that mean that if a Republican is elected in 2016, they can just say "Obamacare mandates are delayed until 2100." ?

  • ||

    So how is everyone enjoying our slide into banana republic? And I don't mean ProL's trips to the one at the mall. Or his trips to Hot Topic.

  • Sudden||

    So how is everyone enjoying our slide into banana republic?

    Channeling Tony/Bo/Tulpa: RACIST!

  • Jerry on the boat||

    +1 monkey.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I would have imagined Pro Lib is more of a JC Penny or Sears kind of guy.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Don't be absurd. I 3-D print all of my clothes out of polymer.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    That's true, I'm letting your extreme age color my vision too much, and am discounting your incredible adaptability.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I can change styles on an hourly basis, as my polymers are recyclable. Fortunately, I have a fashion consultant on staff.

  • ||

    I have a fashion consultant on staff

    You mean you farmed out one of your orphans as an indentured servant to a fashion house for a year or two and now he serves on double duty: fashion consultant and monocle shiner.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Do you think my methods are. . .unsound?

  • ||

    Not at all; I admire them and aim to emulate them.

  • ||

    Don't worry, ProL. I personally can testify that Auric is young enough that I presume he's newly out of Toughskins and working his way to American Eagle.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Toughskins with knee patches?

    For people of my generation, the indignities of 70s children's clothes know no bounds. I have pictures of young me in plaid pants. I think that's actionable, Mom.

  • ||

    The very same, and ditto. I just have one word to add (TRIGGER WARNING):

    Garanimals.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I just missed those, but my brother didn't.

  • Ted S.||

    When I was a kid back in the 70s, I would try to color the people in coloring books as wearing plaid pants.

  • Pro Libertate||

    See? Emotional distress. Intentionally inflicted by society. I'd like damages based on a percentage of GDP, thank you.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I had to Google these "Toughskins".

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's best you don't know the sacrifices of the children of the Boomers.

  • ||

    I could see TJ Maxx or Marshalls. When Caldors still existed, he was totally a Caldors guy. Kohls is too upscale for him.

  • Sudden||

    TJ Maxx actually has a step up on Kohl's. While Kohls may have better locations, TJ Maxx generally has a decent amount of designer wears (albeit generally last season's fashions).

  • Ted S.||

    Fashions don't change as much for men as they do for women, though, right?

    (I wouldn't know, since I still wear skinny ties.)

  • Pope Jimbo||

    I still have some of my ultra cool knit ties from 84.

  • Certified Public Asskicker||

    You're a hipster?

  • waffles||

    This came up in the morning links. You're all hipsters.

  • Ted S.||

    Actually, to be serious, I wear bow ties.

  • RBS||

    So, you are a hipster.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Either that or Tucker Carlson.

  • db||

    I find the.fact.that any of you even know the names of clothing stores to be evidence of your irredeemable cosmotarianism. What the fuck is wrong with you people? Jeans and.a.t-shirt not enough?

  • ||

    Dude...did you know my parents' local Kohl's is in the old Caldor space?

  • Ted S.||

    Last I looked, the old Caldor where I am is now a Burlington Coat Factory.

  • ||

    I too am near a Kohl's in a Caldor space. Though I, when younger, worked at Zayre (the "downscale" Caldor).

  • General Butt Naked||

    Three words....

    Burlington Coat Factory.

  • Ted S.||

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm anticipating the day when I can live behind gates with armed guards and can buy civil liberties directly from government officials, so long as I keep my trap shut.

  • Paul.||

    They're up for auction now!

  • Pro Libertate||

    "How much for the women?"

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Is sliding into a banana republic anything like sliding into a banana warmer? If so, then I hope everyone enjoys the choking off sensation as much as I do!

  • CampingInYourPark||

    I support your right to have the state recognize the choking off sensation of your "banana warmer"

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Damn right. Spend a day in one of those, and you're 90% to attaining the full Dave Carradine experience.

  • Rich||

    “We are putting out the policies early. They are clear. People can rely on them.”

    Indeed. What could be more clear than "Ignorance is Strength"?

  • R C Dean||

    Kinda like the way the deadlines were put out early and were crystal clear.

    Only it turned out people couldn't rely on them?

  • Rich||

    Yep. Kinda like the way "We are putting out the *fires* early."

  • Auric Demonocles||

    "We've got to delay to find out what's in it."

  • PapayaSF||

    "Now that we've passed it and found out what's in it, we must delay it."

  • Paul.||

    To Address Obamacare’s Political Problems, Obama Creates a Bigger Policy Mess

    Isn't this a pretty safe prediction for just about any massive social-engineering project?

  • Rich||

    It's policy messes all the way down!

  • db||

    Or real world gov't engineering project. It's the Big Dig.of public health policy. It will soak people all over the country to provide concentrated benefits to a preferred.constituency. Meanwhile we all pay for a.massive muddy.mess that even those who.are.supposed to.benefit from.hate the.implementation phas3 of, at a significantly higher cost than advertised.

  • ||

    The legal haziness of the latest fix raises some thorny issues for insurers—among them, that they might be liable to be sued by someone who stayed on a non-compliant plan. If someone stays on their current plan, files a claim for coverage that is not covered by that plan but is mandated under Obamacare, then what happens? As Case Western Reserve law professor Jonathan Adler told National Journal’s Sam Baker when this question was raised last year, the law is still the law. The administration may be declining to enforce the provision. But what would the courts say?

    Why would this actually be an issue if your contract is with the insurance company and not the government anyway? "I'm suing you for adhering to our contract, because our contract is illegal"? Well, I guess that makes sense. I'm sure you could sue an employer for paying you less than minimum wage.

    Fuck us all.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Well, their contract isn't illegal, it just doesn't qualify as enough to not be penalized. I think.

  • ||

    Yes, that's why yesterday (or earlier this week) I thought this was a bullshit possibility.

  • Paul.||

    The legal haziness of the latest fix raises some thorny issues for insurers—among them, that they might be liable to be sued by someone who stayed on a non-compliant plan.

    Doesn't this play into Obama's hands politically? Doesn't this give him 'market failurez' amuunition?

  • R C Dean||

    Of course, the people who prattle on about market failure generally have no idea what it means, and will spout it regardless of whether its justified.

    So, nobody needs to give them ammo. They manufacture their own.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Contracts have a lot of implicit language in them. For example, a commercial contract will generally be considered to contain a copy of your state's Uniform Commercial Code without explicitly printing all of it.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, except that it's quite common to disclaim or override such things in contracts. The true statutory clauses are really more common in civil law countries than here.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Yes, but such overrides must be explict in the contract. Do you think insurance policies drafted before Obamacare was a thing explicitly override a law that didn't exist yet?

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm just talking about contracts in general, not your analogy. I'm really only in this thread to make silly remarks.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    Me too. I got nothing for this thread, though,

  • RBS||

    Isn't Stormfront T. Dragon a dude?

  • sarcasmic||

    The legal authority for the delay is murky at best.

    I believe it's the FYTW clause. You know, the one that states that people in government can do whatever they want because no one is willing or able to stop them.

  • Mainer2||

    Recently Kelly Ayotte, Senator from NH, was on the radio. When asked about Obama unilaterally changing the law, she said words to the effect of, how would the Democrats like it if a Republican president chose not to enforce banking or environmental laws.

    Well yes Senator Ayotte, if only you were in a position to do something about the president's lawlessness.

  • Paul.||

    I thought if the president did it, it wasn't illegal?

    Sorry for my confusion, I've been asleep since Nixon.

  • Ted S.||

    She can bitch all she wants, but Harry Reid isn't going to let anything she does come to a vote.

  • NoVAHockey||

    Also, the official in charge of the exchanges is leaving at the end of the month.

  • GILMORE||

    Why is Obama allowing people to continue to suffer under these 'inadequate' and fake health plans?

  • Paul.||

    It has something to do with elections, I'm just sure of it.

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    Let's not be cynical, and by cynical I mean critical of Democrats.

  • Sudden||

    So we can learn how evil and inadequate they really are.

    He only hits us because he loves us.

  • Rich||

    "Let me be clear. It took decades, indeed, *centuries* for fake health plans to become so inadequately entrenched in America. Fixing this problem will obviously take some time."

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    OH, THE PAIN, THE PAIN!

    PEOPLE DYING IN THE STREETS!

  • WTF||

    First off, the retarded don't rule the night. They don't rule it. Nobody does. And they don't run in packs. And while they may not be as strong as apes, don't lock eyes with 'em, don't do it. Puts 'em on edge. They might go into berzerker mode; come at you like a whirling dervish, all fists and elbows. You might be screaming "No, no, no" and all they hear is "Who wants cake?" Let me tell you something: They all do. They all want cake.

  • Sevo||

    Palin's Buttplug|3.6.14 @ 3:14PM|#
    "OH, THE PAIN, THE PAIN!"

    EIGHT percent, fuckwit.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Fuck off. Those of us who already had to switch plans because of renewal timing are pissed. I want a reimbursement for that extra 5 grand a year in premiums.

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    But only 8% of people, right? A majority, in other words?

  • R C Dean||

    Could somebody fucking tell me exactly what they did? Did they waive the penalty on individuals? Did the suspend the requirement that you have a compliant plan?

    WHAT DID THEY DO!? There's a difference between declining to enforce a penalty (and nothing more) and making deeper changes to the actual standards created by law.

    C'mon, Reason. Is a link to the actual fucking original source material emitted by the administration too much to ask for?

  • Paul.||

    I agree that I was very confused by this post. There was something about a law not being unilaterally changed by the administration, something about a ring, a good deal about a dark lord, but other than that... what's going on?

  • Pro Libertate||

    See, here's where you're wrong: There isn't any original source material. This administration operates strictly on a secondary citation basis.

  • Rich||

    I believe you are correct, PL.

    I tried to find something on the White House site -- nada.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's really the first brilliant move by this administration, to only make statements indirectly.

  • Rich||

    "There are some who say ...."

  • Pro Libertate||

    It has been said that the president once considered that.

  • Ted S.||

    What do you have against their linking to 24/7?

  • ||

    Linking to yourself is the last resort of the crass site-visit-counter-pumpers. Which True Libertarians would never be.

  • Ted S.||

    Of course, the writers here are cosmotarians, not True Libertarians. ;-)

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Title HHS 2015 Health Policy Standards Fact Sheet
    For Immediate Release
    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

    I think this is it

    http://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/Me.....-05-2.html

  • Rich||

    Seems like it.

    Awfully short for such important legislation policy standards, though.

  • NoVAHockey||

    Here you go. Sub-regulatory guidance. opens a PDF

  • NoVAHockey||

    Here you go. Sub-regulatory guidance. opens a PDF

  • Rich||

    Sub-regulatory guidance

    Nice band name.

  • Mainer2||

    Basically, our president is not a serious person. If you were going on any semi-dangerous outing, like say, a rafting trip, or camping in the backcountry of Yellowstone, or heck, even a long road trip in a car, would you want this pampered poodle in your gang? Could you count on him to be useful in an emergency, or even throw in his share to pay for lunch ? I mean jeebus, the leader of the free world is both a Daley machine politician and a complete lightweight.

  • Rich||

    Not to mention ..... "Intercepted!"

  • Sevo||

    ..."Could you count on him to be useful in an emergency,"...

    It might work if you threw him under the tire for traction in the snow.

  • ~Knarf Yenrab~||

    Lightweight? Obama once told David Brooks that Reinhold Niebuhr was one of his favorite philosophers.

    Reihold Niebuhr. If that doesn't scream intellectual heavyweight, I don't know what does.

  • GILMORE||

    "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan..."

    ...until after your votes make any difference to us.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    l'etat c'est moi"

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Is a link to the actual fucking original source material emitted by the administration too much to ask for?

    Can you create a link to the President's ass?

  • Wasteland Wanderer||

  • Paul.||

    We are all linked to the president's ass. Or wait, is he linked to ours?

  • Ted S.||

    Obama didn't know about any of this until he read it in the newspaper!

  • Rich||

    (Sung to the tune of "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria")

  • PapayaSF||

    It's Berlin 1945 all over again. They wouldn't admit it was hopeless even in March, no, they had to fight pointlessly until May, and take everything and everyone down with them.

    It's just outrageous that no one is trying to stop this lawlessness, beyond pointless House votes to repeal it. Where are the lawsuits? Why doesn't at least one of these craven insurance companies say: "No, we have to follow the law as written"? Why don't some major businesses implement Obamacare-compliant policies before they have to, to make a point and help get this monstrosity repealed?

    I'll say it again: this is is the worst domestic policy disaster since Prohibition.

  • Rich||

    "In a surprise policy move designed to improve the Obamacare rollout, the administration today overturned the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution."

  • Auric Demonocles||

    No, not overturned. They just "delayed" it.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Around one hundred lawsuits challenging the president’s signature policy achievement are currently making their way through the courts.

    http://freebeacon.com/these-si.....obamacare/

  • PapayaSF||

    Good, but none of those seem to deal with the illegal delays.

  • Homple||

    Prohibition only involved booze, gangsters and corrupt prohibition agents. Obamacare is effing up the 1/6 of the GDP that helps us stay alive and healthy.

  • Pinky||

    Why doesn't at least one of these craven insurance companies say: "No, we have to follow the law as written"? Why don't some major businesses implement Obamacare-compliant policies before they have to, to make a point and help get this monstrosity repealed?

    Because they're complicit.

  • Policywonk||

    Suing this Administration would be a death sentence for an insurer. This Administration is so vengeful that they would think it was "right" to make an ad hoc policy decision to annihilate an insurer that sued them. It wouldn't be a slow death, either -- it would be audit after enforcement action after injunction after arbitrary and capricious inspection. They are just salivating to go after the first insurer that so much as openly criticizes them publicly.

  • GILMORE||

    "If someone stays on their current plan, files a claim for coverage that is not covered by that plan but is mandated under Obamacare, then what happens?'

    I think it needs to be noted that insurers have increasingly begun to ignore the administration's 'permission slips for consumers' announcement and will be cancelling existing coverage nevertheless where they see the need. Whether "the full law" comes into effect in 6 months or in 24 months is increasingly moot - the insurance industry is continuously reconfiguring itself to exist within that new framework, and the legacy system and plans will increasingly be discarded on their own timetable, not when the administration arbitrarily says they are 'technically allowed'.

    I believe the first delay in enforcement was probably a welcome reprieve for some, and probably kept a substantial number of people from having to dump their existing coverage.

    The second I believe is going to work the other way around: insurers are going to see little to no benefit postponing people from being forced into the larger risk-pools, so long as the latter already exist, and will also be cognizant of the potential liability risks that continued '2 system'-coexistence suggests. The impetus will be for them to kill off the old plans ASAP. Obama may have some 'political coverage' to offer, but I doubt this has any real effect on consumers, who will still see plans drop and price increases on their new coverage.

  • ||

    You are likely right, of course, so the political damage is still done.

    And it's pretty obvious that Obama saw a more or less permanent 5 point drop in his approvale ratings as a result of this issue. That likely corresponds to the percentage of the market that is on individual plans.

    That's 5% of the population that is effectively permanently alienated by this lie.

  • Sevo||

    "That's 5% of the population that is effectively permanently alienated by this lie."

    I hope you are correct, rather than 5% who are now blaming the insurance companies for Obo's fuck up.

  • ||

    Indeed.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Yesterday’s confirmation that the Obama administration will extend a previous administrative tweak allowing individuals with non-compliant health plans to keep their current coverage through 2016 reveals two things about the White House and its approach to the health law."

    The most obvious thing it revealed is that the ACA needs to be reformed.

    Even Barack Obama--by his actions--is admitting that the ACA, at the very least, needs to be reformed.

  • ||

    Well, that pretty much guarentees those plans will never be cancelled. If Obama want to put this off until after the next presidential election, what do you think the next president, who will face reelection, is going to do.

    A second-term president who is three years away from the next presidential election should have the LEAST to worry about.

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    They're going to delay implementation of OCare until they lose the White House, then demand implementation, then blame their opponents for the disaster in order to get back into power.

    Progs are too selfish to care about the damage they know (hence the delays) they're doing to people; they just want to benefit from it.

  • ||

    They think the people who are damaged are expendable.

  • Sevo||

    According to shreek, no one who matters is harmed.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    And BarryCare won't have any impact on the midterms, which is precisely why it must be delayed. Wait...

  • ConstitutionFirst||

    When it comes to wrecking the Republic, the Bible is: "The Cloward - Piven Strategy. Hillary and Obambi are their disciples. These Progressives really are a special kind of stupid, the suicidal kind. We'll have to wait for the movie, "Death of a Nation".

  • wadair||

    Asked whether the change was made in response to political concerns, a senior administration official told reporters that he could “understand why some folks could look at it” that way, according to The Hill, but then insisted that there were no political considerations involved. None whatsoever.

    Based on the administration's past performances, I'd interpret this to mean that ONLY political considerations were involved.

  • XM||

    Hey, someone told me Obama actually shut down the government last year because Republicans wanted to delay parts of Obamacare. Is that true?

  • ConstitutionFirst||

    Yes it is true, you never heard about this because of the collusion of the Malfeasant Media.

  • Greg Gauthier||

    I'm not sure how these two revealed insights are actually revealed insights.

    I mean, in the first case: OF COURSE it's the case that the president is willing to act outside his authority. Every president since WASHINGTON has acted outside of his authority. And, in the second case: OF COURSE short-term political concerns are the driving factor. That is the driving factor in EVERYTHING political.

    I have to hand it to you folks at reason. How you all can manage to scare up 500 fresh words every goddamn day, on a subject that's had the shit kicked out of it since the anti-federalism debates is far beyond me. Kudos for your persistence.

    But, one has to ask: when does it stop? At what point do you, your readers -- and everyone else in the word for that matter -- wake up and realize that the problem isn't *this particular* so-called leader, or *that particular* law, or *these particular* political or policy preferences? At what point do you finally concede: It's the whole goddamned SYSTEM that's the problem? The entire MINDSET that insists we need "leaders" to make "laws" in the first place!?

    Oh, how I yearn for the day...

  • ConstitutionFirst||

    32 violations of constitutional law on Socialized Medicine alone, all for political purposes. Party and race affiliation be damned, this this hack is making a joke of the office of president and the American people, yet the Malfeasant Media remains so far up his backside all we can see is the bottom of their shoes. Where is the outrage? What if Bush was did this? Obummer isn't as much of the problem as the sycophants who put this turtle on the post.

  • Controse||

    It is not "legal niceties" you moron. He is blatantly violating the Constitution. Why is it so hard for you to say that?

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