The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

We Will Have Those Numbers in November

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


Oh, and that Obamacare really is working too, in spite of the website’s problems. That pretty much sums up the witness’s testimony in today’s hearing on the Affordable Care Act in the House Ways and Means Committee.  The sole witness was Marilyn Tavenner, the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.  One of the first things she did was to apologize to the “millions of Americans who’ve attempted to use Healthcare.gov to shop and enroll in health care coverage” because “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Chairman David Camp (R-Mich.) persisted several times in trying to get enrollment numbers – not applications – from Ms. Tavenner.  He also asked for a breakdown of the number of people that have obtained coverage under Medicaid, bought private insurance via an exchange, and how many “young invincibles” have purchased a plan.  This cohort of applicants, health young people, is desperately needed to make the entire system work.  Ms. Tavenner continually replied she had no numbers to give and Congress could expect those numbers in November.

My comment: Clearly, if the numbers were good, the administration would be giving a running tally daily.

Chairman Camp also asked Ms. Tavenner if the administration was prepared for premium price surges if the "young invincibles" do not enroll as is hoped.

Ms. Tavenner replied that premiums costs are locked in place for a year and that people had up to March 2014 to enroll.  She reminded that people in Massachusetts were slow to sign up as well for health insurance and she did not perceive any problems with sky-rocketing premium prices in 2015.

My comment: Chairman Camp is focusing on what is called the "death spiral," too many sick people signing up for health insurance and not enough healthy people to provide the finances needed to support a robust insurance system.  This causes premiums to increase in price.  If premiums increase in cost, that discourages even more healthy people from enrolling in a plan.

Mr. Camp talked about the millions of Americans that currently have plans they purchased through the individual market and were happy with the cost and price but are now losing their plans due to Obamacare regulations.  He noted that more people have lost their insurance than have obtained insurance via the new exchanges according to the enrollment numbers in news reports.

Ms. Tavenner defended the new healthcare law, saying what people are experiencing is a “transition” to more robust plans that could cost more than what they currently have, or less if the applicant qualifies for taxpayer-funded subsidies.  She also said the system is working but not as fast as the administration would like.  She assured the committee members that the administration was working hard to fix the website and that it will be working correctly soon.

My comment: It seems the administration and Obamacare supporters have a new slogan.  Instead of “you can keep your current healthcare plan if you like it” it is now “you are being transitioned to a better healthcare plan that may cost you more but you eventually will like it.”

Democrats defended Obamacare and stated Congress needs to work together to fix the new healthcare program.  They continually reminded their colleagues that prior government-run programs, such as Medicare Part D, had similar troubles when it was implemented but by working together, the problems were solved.

My comment: Medicare Part D was a voluntary program.  No one forced seniors to enroll in the program.  Furthermore, the Obama Administration provided half of the capacity for people to access the Healthcare.com website then was provided for Medicare Part D website enrollment.

Republicans focused on the website’s continued disastrous roll-out as well as other problems that are emerging.  These problems include people losing their current individual healthcare policies and whether they will be able to obtain new coverage by January 1 via an exchange; how or if the administration can verify whether a person is entitled to a taxpayer-funded subsidy and if not, how a “claw back” of the subsidy will work; the security of the data collected, and the higher premium costs that are being reported, as opposed to the lower rates that were promised.

Clearly a concern from many committee members were that the American people have heard promises before on how Obamacare would work, that many of the promises have been broken, and openly wondered why the American people should trust the administration to get it right by the end of November.

Tomorrow, Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius will be testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  It should be quite a show.

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