We learned a few interesting things from President Barack Obama’s rambling, analogy-filled press conference on Thursday.
We learned that there was a fumble. We learned that technology is hard. In fact, the president went on for an extended period of time explaining government’s historic struggles with IT issues. Considering the entire backbone of the law is dependent this technology and expertise, how can anyone truly believe that the Nov. 30th deadline set for ACA to work properly is going to happen? And why should anyone trust that IT will work better in the future?
We also learned, despite this traditional technology deficit, the president was not “informed directly” about the challenges facing the website, because he would never be “stupid enough to say this is going to be as easy as shopping around on Amazon or Travelocity.”
We learned that buying insurance is complex business – more complex even than buying an airline ticket. “It’s not like buying a song on iTunes. It’s a much more complicated transaction,” the president said. But one of the selling points of Obamacare exchanges was that it would simplify the process. Exchanges were supposed to offer consumers no-hassle, straightforward choices.
And, least surprising of all, we learned that insurance companies are about to be scapegoated for the entire mess.
Here’s the Associated Press:
Insurance companies will be required to inform consumers who want to keep canceled plans about the protections that are not included under those plans. Customers will also be notified that new options are available offering more coverage and in some cases, tax credits to cover higher premiums.
Under Obama’s plan, insurance companies would not be allowed to sell coverage deemed subpar under the law to new customers, marking a difference with legislation that House Republicans intend to put to a vote on Friday. Only last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a Senate panel she doubted that retroactively permitting insurers to sell canceled policies “can work very well since companies are now in the market with an array of new plans. Many have actually added consumer protections in the last three-and-a-half years.”
So insurance companies that were canceling policies in compliance with Obamacare will now be blamed for failing to provide policies that probably no longer exist? Is it even feasible for these insurance providers to offer the same or similar plans to consumers who’ve already lost them?
In essence, it sounds like insurance companies will be mandated to inform consumers how awful their plans are and how wonderful the government’s plan can be.
And what does this solve? Not much, as Peter Suderman points out:
So Obama is creating a long-term policy problem in order to solve a short-term political problem. Even if this temporarily reduces some of today’s political pressure, those long-term policy problems will rebound to create additional political problems as time goes by. Premiums will rise, and if consumer demand turns out to be lower than expected as a result, plans may withdraw from the market. At the same time, insurers, who have been targeted by the administration for blame and had their assurances about the state of the law (and thus their business plan) upended, will be less likely to cooperate with the administration. They are already frustrated with the administration, and this will hasten the break between them. The opposition of insurers will add a new layer of opposition that the administration must contend with in order to make the law—which is built around the goal of making insurance coverage accessible—work.
We also learned that when it comes to Obamacare, process means nothing. Why does the president even bother signing laws passed by Congress if he can simply alter or ignore statuses within the legislation whenever the vagaries of politics demand it? Reading liberal pundits, it seems that if the core purpose has moral authority(the uninsured need help) anything goes when it comes to process. And when Nancy Pelosi was asked today what she made of brouhaha surrounding Obamacare, she “We’ll be good, we’ll be good. We’ll do what we have to do, and that’s what we’ll do.” Indeed, they do. There are two legislative efforts underway to “fix” the core ‘incorrect truth’ of Obamacare, why do we need an administrative fix? If legislation was poorly written or unworkable, isn’t fixing it a matter for Congress?
And Obama offered no answer for why he kept promising Americans that they could ‘keep their insurance if they liked it’ long after he knew better. Though he did point out that other Democrats were peddling the same line.
Finally, near the end of the press conference, the president made an interesting claim: that Obamacare was actually a choice driven by an incentive for stability, not disruption. “We chose a path that was the least disruptive,” he said. Though pollsters rarely measure the importance of “stability” in American life, I think it’s probably one of the most vital factors driving hostility towards Obamacare from independents and moderates. Everything about Obamacare implementation has created the perception of anarchy – the arbitrary implementation of laws, people losing the plans they have , the way it was passed and the problems it has caused in Washington – and this press conference only reinforced that perception.