“The Kick-the-Can Approach to Obamacare” Underscores Need For Continued Oversight Efforts

June 17, 2014

Time and again, the Obama administration has chosen to unilaterally rewrite, delay, or reinterpret the president’s signature health care law. Most of these changes have been the result of, or an attempt to cover up, failures in the law and its implementation. But as Peter Suderman explains in Reason, there are serious “long-term problems with the administration’s fix-it-later approach to the health law.” Since Republicans took control of Congress in January 2011, the Energy and Commerce Committee has conducted careful and thorough oversight of the health care law. For months leading up to launch, officials insisted that everything would work smoothly on October 1, 2013. And for years the president repeatedly insisted that you could keep your doctor and your health care plan, but none of these assurances have held true. As Suderman writes, the administration “declined independent checks and insisted they had implementation under control, despite contrary evidence, and now it’s abundantly clear that they didn’t.”   

June 17, 2014

The Kick-the-Can Approach to Obamacare

By Peter Suderman

The fight over verification procedures for Obamacare's health insurance subsidies is just one of the many ongoing sub-arguments about implementation of the health law, but it's one that highlights the administration's particular mix of arrogance and ineptitude, as well as the long-term problems with the administration's fix-it-later approach to the health law.

Throughout last year, the Obama administration gave the distinct impression that it was not overly concerned with verifying eligibility for Obamacare's health insurance subsidies. Those subsidies are granted based on household income, with larger subsidies going to those who earn less. The question, then, was how government officials would determine an applicant's income.

Last July, in a holiday-week news dump, The Washington Post suggested an answer when it reported that the administration had written a rule allowing most individuals to self attest projected household income without further verification. In other words, there would be no verification in most instances. As the Post described it, Obamacare would rely on the honor system. …

Obamacare supporters are downplaying the inconsistencies as minor records mismatches, but the potential for upheaval is significant. What happens, for example, if the people who have been contacted don't send in additional documentation? The letters sent out by HHS warn that they could lose their subsidy, or be dropped from their exchange coverage entirely. We don't know how many people have responded at this point, but last month The Washington Post reported that just a fraction of those contacted had done so. What about those who try and cannot get their documents to upload into the system? And what about the delays caused by the administration's failure to complete the tech systems necessary for timely processing?

It's not clear how this mass of discrepancies gets resolved, but what's obvious is that this is a big bureaucratic mess created by the administration’s incompetence, bluster, and refusal to be transparent. They declined independent checks and insisted they had implementation under control, despite contrary evidence, and now it's abundantly clear that they didn't. It's a kick-the-can approach to administration and implementation.

And despite the too-late verification efforts now in the works, it's a big mess that may not be resolved until tax time next year: Those whose received subsidies for which they were not eligible are, at least in theory, supposed to repay the overage on along with their tax bills. How many people might this affect? So far, no one really knows. As always with Obamacare, it's easier to wait to fix problems until later.

Read the article online HERE.

###