Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Turkey Day

Thanksgiving this year is on November 28.  The day when most of us have the big turkey.

However, I think the real Turkey Day this year is going to be November 30.

That is the day that the Obama Administration has promised that Healthcare.gov will be fixed.

Jeff Zients, the Obama Administration official who was brought in on October 22 to get the enrollment system on track said this three days after he took charge of Healthcare.gov.

"We are confident that by the end of the month of November, HealthCare.gov will operate smoothly,"

I could not believe it when I heard it and I still don't believe it.  What was most astounding to me was that anyone after only three days on the job could evaluate a system as complex as the Obamacare exchange enrollment system and make that kind of statement.

I had never heard of Jeff Zients before October 22.  However, his statement of October 25 will go down as one that displayed either incredible competence, incomprehensible incompetence or just plain insanity when we look back at it.

I still cannot understand why anyone could or would believe that they could make such a promise after three days on the job. Are we to believe that after they had 3-1/2 years to get the system ready they somehow are going to fix everything in 30 days?

That is why I think the real Turkey Day will be November 30. On that day I believe we will start to see the Democrats in Congress realize that Barack Obama has given them a turkey and a rush will begin for the exits. Democrats will start asking for delays in the effective dates of Obamacare. Jeff Zients will probably wish President Obama had never called him. Kathleen Sebelius will either resign or be fired. Somebody will need to take the fall.

I may be wrong.  Perhaps Jeff Zients has magic in a bottle.  We will see in a few weeks. However, when most tech experts indicate that any system of this size and scope would need a minimum of 5-6 weeks of end to end testing after programming bugs have been fixed, and we are 3 weeks from the deadline, you can do the math yourself.

No matter what the truth is on November 30 you can expect that the Obama Administration will claim it is running smoothly. When you are desperate you will say anything. We have seen that plenty of times already on Obamacare, haven't we?

You also should understand that even if the site is up and running smoothly on November 30 it will have to handle an incredible load of people in short order.  Anyone who wants coverage effective January 1 must enroll in Obamacare by December 15.  Consider the fact that upwards of 4.5 million people have had their individual plans cancelled and you can do the math again.  How does the system hold up to that type of demand? I doubt it will based on the experience to date.

The real question for Republicans is what should their position be on Obamacare once the Democrats realize they have a turkey and start demanding some type of delay in the law?

Yes, expect the Democrats to soon ask for the same type of delays that they adamantly refused to do a month ago which caused the government shutdown.

However, what should the Republicans do in response?  They need to have a well-considered strategy when Turkey Day is upon us.

Should they be willing to agree to a short delay in the individual mandate or a one-year delay in the entire law?  Such a delay may reduce the current pain that is being caused by the law but it also would provide Obama and the Democrats an opportunity to bail themselves out of this mess. After all, given enough time and money almost any technical problem can be fixed.  And both Obama and the Democrats are very good at spending money.

It will be next to impossible for the Republicans to refuse to agree to a delay.  If they do they will be called vindictive, unfeeling and placing politics before the people.

However, my view is that the Republicans need to get something in any deal that provides a delay. What they ask for has to be carefully considered to be consistent with their overall goal (repeal of Obamacare) but which also appears reasonable under the circumstances to voters.  The Republicans have to make sure that they do not overplay their hand with the voters as they did with the government shutdown.

I have two suggestions and both would involve introducing a "sunset" provision into the law. In other words, the Republicans would agree to a delay in Obamacare taking full effect. However, if certain things did not happen the entire law would be repealed (except for the under age 26 provision for children- it would make no sense to take this away at this point). In other words, the law would "expire"or "sunset" if the condition was not met.

My suggestion is that the sunset date would need to be June 30, 2014.

Why June 30?  Why not some later date?

By June 30, insurance companies and employers are going to need to know the rules they are operating under for 2015. It cannot be any later than June 30 without causing substantial disruptions in the health insurance marketplace and uncertainty in the job market and our economy.

What would be the possible conditions?  Here are a couple of ideas.

1) a new bill must be passed by both Houses of Congress and signed into law to replace Obamacare by June 30. This would require a bipartisan approach since the House is controlled by the Republicans and the Senate by Democrats.  A failure to craft a bipartisan bill in the first place was huge mistake. An effort to forge a bipartisan bill should be looked at as reasonable by the majority of voters.  If a new bill is not passed to replace or modify Obamacare, it is repealed as of June 30, 2014.

2) all aspects of the website, enrollment system and the administration of the income subsidy verification system, individual and employer mandates, etc must be totally implemented and operational by June 30. The determination of whether all provisions and operational aspects of the law are being faithfully followed is to be determined by the U.S. Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court fails to certify this fact, the law will sunset as of June 30.

This provides additional time for the Obama administration to get their act together on Obamacare but also recognizes that we can ill afford having confusion and uncertainty about the future continuing to linger. I believe most voters would understand and agree. A date certain is necessary on the future viability of Obamacare and having the Supreme Court make the final determination on whether the law is being followed would also seem reasonable to most voters.

There may be better ideas but the important point is for the Republicans to provide the needed relief to the people of the United States for the immediate problems with Obamacare while also advancing their longer term goal of repealing Obamacare.  They have to be very strategic in their thinking as well as united in their approach.

The website is bad.  However, the policy is much worse. It is also becoming evident that the politics is even worse. There simply are not enough winners to offset the losers from Obamacare. And it is not even apparent that the winners understand they are winners.  If you did not buy health insurance when it was $100 per month why will you think you got a good deal when it now costs $200 but you got an $80 subsidy?

From my perch it looks like we have two Turkey Days ahead of us in the next few weeks.  There is much to be thankful for on the traditional day. I will count my many blessings and eat my share of turkey. Two days later the Democrats may be eating crow instead of turkey.

No comments:

Post a Comment