Another Day, Another Obamacare Exemption

The Administration has decided, just before the holiday season, to pass yet another exemption for the ailing Obamacare law, this time allowing those who have lost coverage and struggling to secure a new plan to purchase minimalist “catastrophic” plans.

“This is a common sense clarification of the law. For the limited number of consumers whose plans have been cancelled and are seeking coverage, this is one more option,” said an HHS spokesman.

Just a few thoughts:

The fact that this change grants people with now-cancelled coverage “one more option” is boilerplate. If they’ve previously been struggling to find a new plan on the exchange, won’t they also struggle to purchase a catastrophic plan as well?

Where will they get these new plans, on the Healthcare.gov site? A site that’s been plagued with systemic errors?

Will they only be allowed to keep them for a finite period, as the original purpose of eliminating these bare-bones policies in the first place was because they were deemed “insufficient”?

The administration downplayed the change, stating that no more than half a million people would be affected by it. Insurance companies are panning the decision, saying on it’s own that it could cause “tremendous instability” in the system; even more if government estimates of participation are low. It’s hard to know who to trust on this point: the government who shoved the law down our throats despite widespread misgivings, or the insurance companies who helped them craft it and are now experiencing deep buyer’s remorse. However, given the state of the abysmal roll out that just keeps giving, I’m inclined to believe whichever party sounds the worse outcome.

Additionally, if Obamacare can be amended by something as unilateral as an executive decree, can it honestly be called a “law” any longer and not simply a list of guidelines to be revised at the drop of a hat? Given the Administration’s proclivity for changing the law without the legal authority to do so, what logical argument could be made that they wouldn’t think to change the fundamental architecture of the law and “deem” it to institute a single payer system? All without Congressional approval?

Of course, I recognize that I’m likely waxing paranoid, but consider:

When businesses sounded the early alarm about the employer mandate, it was delayed. No original authority was given for this. (The administration even threatened to veto House legislation that would have granted him authority.)

Online enrollment deadline for small businesses: delayed.

Medicare cuts under the law: delayed (until after the 2012 election, no less).

Caps on out-of-pocket insurance costs: delayed.

They’ve proven adept at delaying the law. Not the biggest leap to imagine them making wholesale changes to it as well. Regardless of what happens next or what the repercussions of this decision will be, one thing is interesting to note. Obama said last year that “the law is here to stay”, and as long as he’s in office there would be no repeal. At this rate, the GOP won’t even need to try for one. The president is proving quite capable of dismantling it on his own.

At least there’s that…

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About Michael Haugen

Michael Haugen is a full-spectrum conservative and recent graduate from Eastern Washington University (BS Biology). His main interests in politics and public policy center around health care, education and tax reform. He'll be returning to EWU in 2014 to complete a Master's degree in Public Administration. Follow him on Twitter: @HaugenTRA

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