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Morning Action: The Obamacare Success Story that Wasn’t

OBAMACARE FAIL.  Jessica Sanford is a single mom who tried to sign up for a health care plan under Obamacare in her state of Washington and found that it was way too expensive.  She was given an inaccurate quote twice before she discovered the real costs.  She also happened to be one of the individuals President Obama used as props to tout Obamacare “success” stories in the Rose Garden on October 21:

But then, after Obama mentioned her story, Sanford started having problems. Sanford said she received another letter informing her the Washington state health exchange had miscalculated her eligibility for a tax credit.

In other words, her monthly insurance bill had shot up from $198 a month (she had initially said $169 a month to the White House but she switched plans) to $280 a month for the same “gold” plan offered by the state exchange.

Sanford said she was frustrated with the state’s error. But she decided to purchase the new plan and thought everything was fine.

It wasn’t fine. Last week, Sanford received another letter from the Washington state exchange, stating there had been another problem, a “system error” that resulted in some “applicants to qualify for higher than allowed health insurance premium tax credits.”

The letter said the state exchange was “disappointed to have discovered this issue” and apologized.

The result was a higher quote, which Sanford said was for $390 per month for a “silver” plan with a higher deductible. Still too expensive.

DOCTOR PROMISE.  You may be unable to keep the doctor you like because of Obamacare:

But for the President, the real political pain may only be starting. Come 2014, the rest of the country may learn that another high-profile pledge was untrue. “No matter how we reform health care,” Obama said in 2009, “we will keep this promise: if you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period.”

It’s not that simple. In order to participate in health-insurance exchanges, insurers needed to find a way to tamp down the high costs of premiums. As a result, many will narrow their networks, shrinking the range of doctors that are available to patients under their plan, experts say.

“Many people are going to find out that the second part of the promise — that if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor — just wasn’t true,” says Gail Wilensky, who directed the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs under President George H.W. Bush. Factcheck.org labeled the promise “misleading,” noting that while the law doesn’t contain provisions designed to force people to pick new doctors, a switch may be inevitable for some. “The President simply can’t make this promise to anyone,” the site wrote.

WEBSITE FAILURE.  In light of the massive failure that is HealthCare.gov, President Obama is urging people to sign up for Obamacare via mail and in person:

President Barack Obama urged his supporters Monday to help Americans enroll for health insurance by mail, in person and over the phone, seeking to tamp down expectations that the error-riddled HealthCare.gov website will ever be a panacea for the uninsured — even once it’s fixed.

Obama’s appeal for help in spreading the word came as the White House was actively considering more ways to let people sign up, including direct enrollment through insurance companies. Earlier Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said 1 in 5 Americans won’t ever be able to complete their enrollment through the website due to technical glitches, discomfort with using computers or complex personal tax situations.

WARNING. Private consultants warned the Obama administration that there were risks with launching HealthCare.gov on October 1:

The Obama administration brought in a private consulting team to independently assesshow the federal online health insurance enrollment system was developing, according to a newly disclosed document, and in late March received a clear warning that its Oct. 1 launch was fraught with risks.

The analysis by McKinsey & Co. foreshadowed many of the problems that have dogged HealthCare.gov since its rollout, including the facts that the call-in centers would not work properly if the online system was malfunctioning and that insufficient testing would make it difficult to fix problems after the launch.

The report was provided to The Washington Post by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

This risk assessment, which was encapsulated in a 14-slide presentation, was delivered to senior White House and Department of Health and Human Services officials in four briefings between March 28 and April 8, the committee said.

BUDGET.  The thirteen top Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee have urged budget negotiators to report a top-line number for discretionary spending before Thanksgiving and no later than December 2:

“The failure to reach a budget deal to allow Appropriations to assemble funding for 2014 will reopen the specter of another government shutdown,” the letter says. “Second it will reopen the probability of governance by continuing resolution, based on prior year outdated spending needs and priorities, dismissing in one fell swoop all the work done by Congress to enact appropriations bills …that reflect the will of Congress and the people we represent.

Third, the current sequester and the upcoming ‘Second Sequester’ in January would result in more indiscriminate across the board reductions that could have negative consequences on critically important federal programs, especially our national defense.”

Indeed, the military stands to be most hurt by the second round of spending cuts, and the Defense Department’s budget would fall to $475 billion, $21 billion below the current stopgap bill which is funding the government into January.

The Heritage Foundation explains that Congress should agree on a budget during this time period that tackles the key driver of spending and debt: entitlement spending.

 

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