March 28, 2014

Another ObamaCare Delay, and Nobody’s Surprised

Don’t worry; delay number 38 is only a “very logical way” to get people enrolled.

The Health and Human Services Department announced another delay to ObamaCare enrollment this week – number 38 for anyone keeping score. Of course, the Obama administration sure isn’t; they’re moving the goal post whenever it’s convenient to score political points.

This latest delay places an indefinite hold in the termination date to encourage people to sign up for the program. All anyone has to do now is check a box on the website that states they had trouble signing up in the past. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) praised the move because he believes that “people are not educated on how to use the Internet.” In reality, the problem has more to do with the fact that the White House doesn’t know how to build a website for a lousy and overpriced product. That shouldn’t matter though, because if HHS is to be believed, all the exchange website glitches have been fixed. There really should be no need for this hardship delay. Fortunately, as HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius explained, “This is not an extension of open enrollment. It’s actually a very logical way to make sure people get through the system.” Well okay then.

But Sebelius told Congress two weeks ago that there would be “no delay beyond March 31.” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokeswoman Julie Bataille went further, saying, “[I]n fact, we don’t actually have the statutory authority to extend the open enrollment period in 2014.” Not that a lack of legal authority stopped them the previous 37 times they’ve changed the law.

The administration is desperate to reach seven million signups for ObamaCare’s first year. After that arbitrary threshold is reached, they can declare victory and move on. It is unclear why this number is so magical, and it may prove utterly meaningless in the end anyway. Seven million signups doesn’t mean that there are seven million insured. In fact, roughly 80% of the six million who have signed up thus far have paid their first month’s premium, meaning they’re enrolled. There is also no hard data on how many of these people were previously uninsured or were just kicked off their perfectly good private insurance plans and pushed into the ObamaCare pool. Basically, a signup is defined as someone who has merely visited the site and put a plan in their virtual shopping cart.

The folly of all these delays is that ObamaCare is now further encouraging people to wait to sign up for insurance only after they get sick. The deadlines have become meaningless. The administration will push them back as many times as necessary to reduce the pain for Democrats in the coming midterms. As with all things in the Obama White House, this is not about the law, it’s about politics.

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