Like the Yankees sputtering through the last few games of a season filled with injuries and frustration, ObamaCare is limping its way toward its official launch next Tuesday, dragging with it an ever larger trail of disappointments.
Supporters of the health-care overhaul can still celebrate the opening of 50 state exchanges next week, where individuals unable to otherwise find “affordable” insurance can shop for federally subsidized plans.
Oops, not 50 exchanges: Vermonters will be able to look at plans on their exchange in October, but they won’t actually be able to buy them until November. Exchanges in Minnesota, Oregon and Utah also won’t be fully functional either, and several other states are rushing to fix last-minute “glitches.”
So let’s just say that next Tuesday, lots of states (including Connecticut, New York and New Jersey) will open their exchanges for business. But those exchanges may have some problems, too.
For example, the software that determines how much people actually have to pay for insurance can’t actually calculate the price. Nor can the system verify your income or whether your employer offered you “affordable” coverage, so they’ll have to just take your word about whether you’re eligible for subsidies.
Plus, the security systems for the program’s new data hub haven’t actually been tested, so your personal data could be at risk. Hey, nothing’s perfect.
Still, part of the law will almost start on time. Then again, a lot of its other provisions have had to be dropped or postponed.
Like the CLASS Act. This was the long-term-care insurance program included in ObamaCare as a special tribute to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. Alas, as far back as 2011, the administration indefinitely delayed its implementation, and Congress repealed it in a bipartisan vote last year.
The Obama team itself postponed the Small Business Health Option Program until at least 2015. That program was designed to help small employers provide their workers with a choice of health plans. But in April the administration had to admit it couldn’t provide those options.
Most significantly, of course, the administration has postponed until 2015 the law’s employer mandate, the requirement that businesses with 50 or more employees provide their workers with health insurance or pay a fine.
But the law’s individual mandate remains in effect, meaning workers may now face a situation where they’ll be legally required to buy their own insurance or pay a penalty because their employers take advantage of the delay and don’t provide coverage.
Michael D. Tanner is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, heading research into a variety of domestic policies with particular emphasis on health care reform, welfare policy, and Social Security. His most recent white paper, "Bad Medicine: A Guide to the Real Costs and Consequences of the New Health Care Law," provides a detailed examination of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and what it means to taxpayers, workers, physicians, and patients.
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