Quit tinkering with the Obamacare rollout

12/23/2013 5:45 PM

12/23/2013 5:45 PM

Cut it out, people. Just stop it.

That means you, President Barack Obama. And you, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. And all you people in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services signing off on these changes to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

Flexibility is one thing, but giving the impression of malleability is something else again. And that’s what the administration does every time it tinkers with the plan.

Obama conveyed the wrong message when he tried to hose down the political firestorm that erupted when many Americans discovered that they couldn’t necessarily keep the health plan they liked, as the president had repeatedly promised. Obama asked insurers to extend defective health plans that no longer meet the requirements of the new health care law for one year for existing customers who might have to pay extra for a better policy.

That was in mid-November and since then it’s seemed that the administration is making some sort of accommodation or another almost weekly.

Last week it was Sebelius’ announcement that people could purchase substandard “catastrophic” plans for one year if their existing policies have been canceled and they can reasonably contend they don’t have affordable options in the new marketplace.

These moves are making the insurance companies crazy, in part because of the hassle they create and also because they potentially keep young, healthy consumers out of the insurance exchanges, where they are needed to balance out the older, less healthy policyholders who already are there.

Just today, The Washington Post reported that the administration had secretly extended by 24 hours the deadline for applying on HealthCare.gov for a policy to begin on Jan. 1. That’s actually a good idea. But why so hush-hush? Secrecy just plays into the opposition’s contention that the administration is arbitrary and desperate in its rollout of Obamacare.

What’s

not

a good idea is announcing an exception or exemption to the health care law every time a senator or some such person complains. There are going to be unhappy constituents, winners and losers with a change this big.

The flimsy catastrophic policies that Obama wants to preserve for a while longer need to go. They pay for very little, so when a person actually needs medical help, much of it ends of becoming uncompensated care, which raises insurance and health care costs for the rest of us.

Obama and Sebelius need to take the long view, here. You can’t make everybody happy in the short term and accomplish the long-term goals of the Affordable Care Act.

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