Friday, July 11, 2014

Obamacare continues its downward spiral


Is this the future of healthcare under Obamacare?
Roosevelt Island Hospital | PHOTO CREDIT: Wiki Commons
Is this the future of healthcare under Obamacare?

Obamacare continues its downward spiral.

Proponents are in a panic over the poor enrollment numbers. Continuing court challenges reveal more and more potential flaws and constitutional violations with the Affordable Care Act. Congress failed to defund the programs yet Obamacare’s flaws and failures present premonitions of its path of self-destruction.
The spiral first began with Obama’s delay of the employer mandate. The mandate was delayed mostly because employers were restructuring their workforces, converting full-time positions to part-time in order to reduce the labor costs associated with the mandate. The ACA redefined “full-time” as 30 or more hours per week, on average. That change provoked a similar redefinition by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Even with that definition change, unemployment remains well above pre-recession levels. The labor participation rate dropped to a historic low and remains an indicator of repressed prosperity.

The spiral continued when individuals encountered “sticker shock” as the insurance exchanges “rolled out”. On average, premiums nearly doubled and deductibles tripled. Coverage and plans equitable to pre-ACA policies inflated to unaffordable levels. This was further aggravated by severe problems with the very expensive website. The site cost billions to program but did not work properly. The data was not properly secured, leaking personal identifying information (PII) where criminals could gain access.

The “sticker shock” was predicated with the revelation that Obama’s promises “If you like your doctor, you can keep him” and “If you like your plan, you can keep it” turned out to be false, if not deliberate lies. Many physicians are “going Galt” or retiring in order to avoid the red-tape and increased costs associated with the ever-increasing regulations. Others are refusing to accept Medicare or Medicaid. Patients found their plans cancelled due to the ACA and their new policies not covering their current doctors.

With the website issues and a confusing process, several sympathetic organizations formed pools of “navigators”. However, there was little screening or education done as part of the hiring process, causing further disclosure of PII. Along came Project Veritas and James O’Keefe III, conducting their undercover investigative journalism. O’Keefe’s organization uncovered potential security breaches with so-called navigators allegedly bragging about data-basing PII for political use.

The enrollment period continues to fall short of its required goals. Jan. and Feb. 2014 fell far short. The program projected seven million enrollments by the last day of March. Studies indicate the program needs a minimum of six million enrollments by that deadline to survive with any element of self-sufficiency. With less than a week remaining, enrollment numbers have barely broken five million, which is 400 thousand less than the end of Feb. goal.

Joining the executive orders delaying implementation Obama unilaterally invoked without proper legislation is the latest. Obama has declared a “special enrollment period”. The March 31st deadline is no longer as firm as he initially decreed. Those initiating enrollment prior to the deadline can declare they began the process without facing penalties for failing to complete it in time. Authorities will take the declaration at “face value” and not investigate or audit the veracity of the claims. Citizens now have until April 15th to complete enrollment or request and extension. This is further aggravated by other allegations. At the end of Feb. studies suggested that up to 20 percent of enrollments were unpaid, meaning the enrollments were incomplete and policies were not issued. Rumors now indicate the number may be higher with closer to 50 percent of enrollments unpaid. This suggests that completed enrollments may be anywhere from 2.5 to 4 million, falling far shorter than initially reported.

The announcement of the amnesty was issued  on the heels of the US Supreme Court hearing oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby vs. Sebelius. The arguments did not concentrate on the First Amendment, as many would predict. The applicability of the Constitution’s ban against government infringements against the freedom of religion may be incorporated into the courts final decision and opinions. However, the arguments concentrated around the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993. Justice Kennedy was highly critical of both litigants, seeming to represent the swing vote. Among the key points raised to Solicitor General Verrilli concerned the exceptions and immunities granted to select organizations already. Some of those were religious organization such as churches. Others were to select corporations, labor unions, and similar organizations. The questions and answers seemed to indicate that the RFRA protects not only individuals and non-profit organizations but may also apply to for-profit organization that exhibit clear religious beliefs.

Among the individual exceptions granted under the law and current regulations are qualifying military veterans. Military veterans with service-connected disabilities above a certain percentage are considered covered by the Veterans Administration. They can seek medical attention from VA medical facilities. Those same facilities are backlogged. In some cases, medical services are delayed by months during which the illness or injury may escalate to a level requiring greater attention than the initial appointment could accommodate, turning what would have been a minor procedure into major surgery. This begs the question: “Is this the level of care Obamacare promises at these prices?”

Obamacare is becoming a self-perpetuating disaster that can be mitigated only with a full repeal. The only worse prospect is fully socialized medicine that mandates all medical practices be managed by a government bureaucracy. The replacement is simple. Keep the common sense aspects such as coverage of preexisting conditions. Eliminate individual and employer mandates. Increase and support market options such as Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Enact national-level tort reforms that limit liability in malpractice cases, which will reduce the costs of malpractice insurance. Strike down some of the pharmaceutical regulatory costs associated with excessive testing and FDA approval. Provide incentives for pro bono and charity health care. Reduce taxpayer burden by shrinking the bureaucracy.