Obama’s pre-election Obamacare shell game

The other day, President Obama claimed that Republicans are talking less about Obamacare on the campaign trail, now that “it’s working pretty well in the real world.” Obama’s assertion turns out to be false. Obamacare is front-and-center as a campaign issue throughout the nation.

Republicans would talk about Obamacare even more if the Obama administration stopped preventing disclosure of its shortcomings by gagging insurance companies and hiding information. Robert Laszewski, president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, describes Team Obama’s multi-faceted campaign to suppress and/or obscure the facts.

First, the White House wants to make sure that problems with the federal website aren’t disclosed before the election. Thus, according to The Wall Street Journal, the administration sent an email to the insurance companies participating in Obamacare telling them not to talk about the testing of the enrollment system.

All “testers” (i.e., the insurance companies) must “acknowledge the confidentiality of [the testing] process” in order to participate. Accordingly, they are barred from disclosing “results of this testing exercise and any information describing or otherwise relating to the performance or functionality” of the Obamacare enrollment and eligibility system.

Laszewski notes that a year ago when the Obamacare enrollment system crashed and shut out millions of people trying to sign up for health insurance, the only credible information available came from the insurers who were participating in the program; the government initially insisted that everything was fine. This time, insurers are pledged to secrecy.

Second, the White House continues to mislead about the number of people enrolled in Obamacare. Last month, it announced that 7.3 million people were insured under Obamacare as of mid-August. The timing was significant, as Laszewski explains:

[The administration] conveniently reported this figure just before enrollment is expected to take a big fall when thousands of people hit the deadline to clear up discrepancies in their income and legal resident status or risk losing subsidies or coverage altogether. We still don’t know how many lost coverage or are still in limbo.

Third, the White House misleads the public with respect to rate increases for 2015. It touts “average” rate increases. But according to Laszewski, to the extent that average increases are low, it’s because insurers that didn’t attract applicants have lowered their rates. This masks the extent to which insurers with attractive plans have increased theirs.

Current participants in the 36 federally run state insurance exchanges and most state-run exchanges won’t see their own renewal rates until the open enrollment is about to begin — i.e., after the election. Laszewski believes that people who want to keep their current plan may well see significant increases. If they want to avoid steep increases, they likely will have to turn to less desirable plans.

If Obamacare were truly “working pretty well in the real world,” the president would be eager, or at least willing, to expose it to the sunshine. He would let insurance companies speak about how the new website is working as rollout nears; he would provide “real world” numbers about total enrollment; he let customers know what their 2015 rates will look like.

Instead, the president hides the ball, thus giving lie to his rosy claims about Obamacare.


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