The media profile of President Obama is that he is a brilliant, coo,l and confident leader. He takes a very deliberate approach to policy and doesn’t get flustered by the ups-and-downs of the office. It is a very thin line, though, between calm and aloof, confident and arrogant. Obama’s reaction to the disastrous rollout of ObamaCare is anything but deliberate. The White House seems to be responding on the fly.
On Thursday, Obama announced a “fix” to the cancellations of insurance policies for millions of Americans. People who had bought policies in the individual insurance market would be able to keep those policies for an additional year. It is an open question whether Obama’s new interpretation of the law is legal or even constitutional. That debate is almost beside the point though, because the new policy doesn’t make any sense.
First, insurance companies have already adapted their policies and practices to reflect ObamaCare and the health exchanges. It is unlikely they will reverse course and re-offer the cancelled policies, especially since the extension is just for one year.
Second, many of these policies were cancelled by the authority of state insurance regulators. They are unlikely to overturn their decisions just because Obama issued another waiver. Health insurance is heavily regulated by the states. Even Obama can’t override the decisions of these state officials.
Third, the one-year waiver has injected even more confusion into the ObamaCare rollout. Implementation of the health care law was already struggling. Obama’s “fix” moves the uncertainty up to an 11.
Obama’s proposed “fix” did not arise out of a deliberate approach to policy. It arose out of growing panic among Democrats that ObamaCare was going to be a political albatross around their necks in 2014. Many Democrats, in both the House and Senate, have said they will support a GOP plan to allow people to retain their individual insurance. Obama’s plan was an attempt to prevent Democrats joining the GOP to change ObamaCare, which would be an enormous political embarrassment for the White House.
Obama’s fundamental problem, though, is that the policy cancellations are a feature, not a bug of ObamaCare. The only way the law even theoretically works is if individuals with these policies, who are generally healthy, are forced into the exchanges to subsidize the costs of the sick and elderly. If the pool of healthy individuals in the exchanges is too small, premiums in the exchange will skyrocket.
It is possible that on January 1st, when the individual mandate comes into effect, fewer people will have health insurance than when ObamaCare was passed. No wonder Obama is winging it.