Obamacare, Depoliticized

From “Over 1 Million Added to Rolls of Health Plan,” Michael D. Shear and Reed Abelson, NYT:

“But industry experts and insurance officials say that the reality is murkier than either party wants to admit and that the numbers at the heart of the national political debate are largely meaningless outside of Washington’s overheated environment.  The determination about whether the law works from an economic standpoint will not be clear for years, when individual insurance companies are finally able to tell whether their expectations about the health of their customers — and the premiums they set for coverage — were accurate.

“And the economic fate of the biggest health care overhaul in decades will be decided state by state, in hundreds of individual markets across the country, not in a theoretical national insurance marketplace that does not really exist.

“‘There’s going to be tremendous variation in the country,’ said Drew Altman, the president and chief executive of the Kaiser Family Foundation.  He said the focus on national numbers, like reaching the target of enrolling seven million people in the first year, ‘never had anything to do with the real success or failure of the law.'”

However Many Problems You Solve, Fox News Will Find More

When HealthCare.gov wasn’t working, Fox News bitched and moaned about how awful it was that you couldnt use the web site.   Now that the site’s much improved, they’re trying to scare people away, claiming you shouldnt use it because of vague “security” risks.  They have yet to actually find a family who bought health insurance and had a cyber thief book a Mediterranean cruise using their AmEx, but still…

Sean Hannity has gone from having Ainsley Earhardt sit there unable to log on, to having her refuse to give HealthCare.gov her Social Security number, which clearly is what Fox News wants everyone to do.  If that sweet little South Carolina cupcake Ainsley pouts her glossy lips and says “Hell, no,” you can (and should) too!  Because if we all refuse to give our Social Security numbers, Obamacare will fail, the Muslim Socialist will go back to Kenya, and America will be saved.

Meanwhile, down the hall, Megyn Kelly is obsessed with the 834’s, the form that HealthCare.gov sends to the insurance company you choose.  While the error rate on the 834’s was about 25% back in October and November, some of those errors were de mininis (your middle initial was wrong) and that rate is now about 10%.  And mostly we are talking mistakes, like people getting enrolled twice, not “lost” applications where people think they have insurance, but they don’t.

Anyway, Megyn is worrying her pretty blonde head about how in the world people can possibly figure out if they have insurance, without showing up at the hospital on January 1st and being left in the lobby to die.  Actually, it’s pretty simple, something even folks who work at Fox News should be able to grasp.  If you get a bill for your first premium, which happens pretty quickly after you enroll, congratulations, you have insurance.  Well, as long as you pay that bill.  If you don’t get a bill, you don’t have insurance, and you need to contact the company you wanted to sign up with.  Since this is basic capitalism — you get stuff by paying for it — you’d think Fox News would understand the whole billing-and-premium-paying thing, as opposed to the how-the-Hell-can-anyone-tell thing Megyn Kelly is pushing.

Hannity and Cruz Flat Out Lie About Obamacare Costs

I thought Forbes was a serious publication, but apparently not.  Check out Chris Conover’s “Obamacare Will Increase Health Spending by $7450 for a Typical Family of Four.”

Here’s a news flash for you — if you provide health insurance to 30 million more people, health care spending will go up!  Conover takes the Medicare actuary’s prediction that health care spending will go up $621 billion over the next ten years, and works that out to $7,450 for a “typical” family of four.

Conover contrasts this increase in spending with Obama’s promise that premiums would go down $2,500 a year for a family of four.  Now, if you read the article carefully, it’s clear that he’s comparing the apples of $7,450 over ten years with the oranges of $2,500 per year.

Guess who either didn’t really the article carefully or who doesn’t give a damn about the truth (and I suspect it’s the latter)?  Sean Hannity and Ted Cruz.  On his show tonight, Sean explicitly said that it would be an increase of $7,450 per year for a family of four.  Ted Cruz chimed in that it was a $10,000 swing compared to Obama’s promise.  Um, only if you purposely confuse a single year with a decade because you’re trying to scare the hell out of people.  I’m guessing that many more people watch Sean than will read the Forbes article, let alone read it carefully.

The other problem with Conover’s article is that he talks about an increase in health care spending as if he were talking about a family’s outofpocket costs.  He makes no attempt to distinguish how much will be paid by the government (expanded Medicaid, health insurance subsidies, etc.), how much will be paid by insurance, and how much will actually paid by that “typical” insured family of four.

Because if he did that, if he were honest, it wouldn’t be anywhere near $7,450, and it wouldn’t be so impressively scary.

 

The GOP’s Phony Outrage on Subsidies

If Obamacare were going to be as apocalyptic as the GOP claims (The whole country will be working part-time!), they’d just sit back and wait for that disaster and savor their sweep of both Houses of Congress in 2014 and the White House in 2016.

But, really, they are afraid that people are going to like Obamacare, especially with the subsidies for lower and middle-income families.  They are outraged about these “government subsidies.”

But what do they think the government is already doing with health care?  Health care subsidies are the biggest tax expenditure in the tax code, costing the government hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

If you get health insurance from your employer, you don’t pay taxes on the value of that benefit, it’s not counted as part of your income.  Your employer, in turn, gets to deduct all those health insurance premiums as a business expense.

So our current employer-based health system is already heavily subsidized by the federal government.  And by the way, one of the reasons wages have stagnated is the growing cost of health insurance.  Your employer is paying you more, he’s just doing it by paying those increased premiums for you.

So for the GOP to decry that the government is suddenly subsidizing health insurance is specious.  It’s been going on for decades. Big time.

The GOP claims they want consumer-based health care.  Well, this is it.  Every time someone buys insurance on the new exchanges from a private insurance company, that’s consumer-based health care.

 

Obamacare Premiums Lower Than Expected

Dylan Scott over at Talking Points Memo has an interesting story up about the Kaiser Family Foundation’s report showing that Obamacare premiums are coming in lower than the Congressional Budget Office had anticipated.

For example, the CBO had projected $320/month for a silver plan for a 40-year-old.  Kaiser found the premium will be lower in 15 of the 18 regions it analyzed.