ObamaCare’s Numbers Still Don’t Add Up

AP/Don Ryan
AP/Don Ryan

ObamaCare apologists figure they have a fairly low hurdle to clear in order to keep the program alive, bureaucratic inertia being what it is.  They only have to keep public discontent below a certain boiling point, to prevent a political tsunami from rippling forth and sweeping ObamaCare away.

It would take a great deal of sustained political energy to stiffen Republican spines, knock down Democrat dead-enders, and make repeal happen.

The latest polls have public approval of ObamaCare tied with all-time lows — 39 percent approval, down 10 points in just the past year — but that’s not quite the same thing as the pitchforks-and-torches anger it will take to bring down one of the biggest Big Government Frankenstein monsters of all.  ObamaCare stinks, but do you hate it enough to defeat its dependents and profiteers, and trim the power of the State back — something that has very rarely been done in over the past century?

There are three primary methods ObamaCare defenders use to keep discontent from boiling into political energy.  First, there’s the weaponized despair: it’s the settled law of the land, it’s the best America deserves, if you don’t like it you obviously just want poor people to get sick and die, that sort of thing.

Second, there’s the simple but effective trick of making the people who aren’t happy with ObamaCare disappear.  Any program can be made to look successful if no one is allowed to complain about it.  If you’re dealing with doubled premiums and can’t find a doctor, the president thinks you don’t count, and his media courtiers are happy to enforce his decree.  People who still hold a grudge over Barack Obama lying to them about keeping their insurance plans and doctors have about as much chance of getting favorable media attention as people who insist Caitlyn Jenner is still a man.  Once upon a time, a half-dozen people could be marched on stage and used as evidence that the lives of 350 million needed to be uprooted, at staggering cost, but as is always the case, the value of anecdotes dropped to zero as soon as the statists took power.

Third, we’ve got a little trick American voters can’t seem to figure out, no matter how many times it gets played on them: if you allow Big Government to measure its own success, it will always find plenty.  It will never grade itself lower than a “solid B-plus,” as President Obama once did.  Numbers will be fudged, measurements will be changed, original promises will be forgotten, and goalposts will be moved.

Philip Klein at the Washington Examiner caught the seismic tremors of a massive goalpost relocation last week: “Though the Department of Health of Human Services boasted this week that enrollment in Obamacare is consistent with the administration’s expectations, in reality, it has lagged behind original expectations for the second year in a row. The question is, can enrollment make a quantum leap in 2016 just to catch up?”

What he means is that ObamaCare enrollments remain far below the original projections.  It was supposed to enroll 8 million in 2014, 13 million in 2015, and 21 million in 2016.  But we’re standing at only 10.2 million, at best – a few more enrollees might still trickle in, but experience suggests the total is more likely to be revised downward, due to reporting inaccuracies and the termination of unpaid insurance plans.

That means enrollments will have to double in the next year to meet projections — an unlikely feat, since as Klein points out, ObamaCare most likely picked all the “low-hanging fruit” in the first two years.  The people who really wanted to enroll are all in; now the enforcers have to frog-march the rest of us into the program with those “tax/penalty” bayonets.  The bayonets will grow commensurately sharper, as the penalties rise to levels that would have been politically unfeasible, back when it was still necessary to trick the American people into accepting all this.

Why isn’t the mainstream media telling us ObamaCare is lagging dangerously far behind enrollment projections?  Simple: the commissars revised the projections downward, so they could claim they met them.  As with so much else about ObamaCare, I recommend against trying that with your private-sector contracts, unless you relish spending a great deal of time inside a courtroom.

Those enrollment projects weren’t just a political goalpost.  The scheme requires a certain number of participants, with a certain mix of young, healthy, gullible revenue sources.

“A big reason why insurers are proposing rate increases for 2016 is that the first year of claims data revealed a group of enrollees that is older and sicker than they originally hoped for,” Klein explains, noting that two of the federal programs compelling taxpayers to subsidize the insurance companies are due to expire after 2016, right about the time Barack Obama is settling into his gigantic Hawaiian retirement palace and deciding which seven-figure book deal to accept.  He, unlike you, will get to keep the health care plan and doctor he likes.

Another numbers game ObamaCare hucksters never tire of playing is conflating Medicaid with ObamaCare.  That gives you articles cheerfully exclaiming “ObamaCare Has Reduced Uninsured by Nearly 8 Million,” above articles that admit, several paragraphs in, that “ObamaCare” has done nothing of the kind — 4.9 million people lost their coverage, 5.8 million bought plans, for a net of only 900,000 newly insured, while the other seven and a half million went on Medicaid, a decades-old welfare program whose enrollment guidelines were greatly widened by the Affordable Care Act.

Considering the staggering amount of money poured into ObamaCare — much of it squeezed from people who did nothing wrong, but suddenly found themselves paying far more in premiums and deductibles, plus the insane amounts of tax money plowed into exchange websites, some of which keeled over and died in foul-smelling clouds of incompetence and corruption — 900,000 new enrollees is nothing to brag about.  If that number had been available to the people of 2008, Barack Obama would have been laughed off the national stage.

As for Medicaid… well, there’s a damn good reason ObamaCare’s architects weren’t honest with you about expanding it.  We could have had a fair and informed national discussion about making Medicaid vastly larger, but that discussion would not have gone well for the Democrats, so instead they tricked the public into thinking they were passing a largely voluntary reform of private insurance that would be so awesome, and save us so much money, that people would cast aside their old plans and race to sign up at HealthCare.gov, a website that would work even better than Amazon.com.

Even if the Supreme Court doesn’t knock down federal ObamaCare subsidies, the numbers for the program aren’t adding up.  What happens when the direct subsidies to insurance companies go away?  The personal subsidies under consideration by the Court might not fatally wound ObamaCare if they are struck down — on the contrary, the odds are at least equal that the trap set by the Affordable Care Act’s designers will work as planned, forcing holdout states to buckle under and set up their own exchanges after all.

And that means the states that have pulled the plug on non-functional exchanges after wasting hundreds of millions of dollars — Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada, Maryland, Hawaii — will have to turn right back around, start at Square One, and begin pouring fresh taxpayer millions into building exchanges again.  Won’t that be fun?  Are you ready to show the hustlers they underestimated you and hold them accountable for failing to meet the promises they want you to forget about and the projections they would rather erase?


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